Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, January 1, 2009

By religion, then, I understand a propitiation or conciliation
of powers superior to man which are believed to direct and
control the course of nature and of human life.

- Sir James George Frazer, anthropologist & author
(“The Golden Bough”), born on this day, 1854

Nope. If Frazer believed this, he got it dead wrong. He was, however, probably correct if he was reporting what many/most people of his time believed “religion” was. And he might very well be correct in 2009, given what I see when I look around the World in general!

I have been a Christian for over 45 years. And a priest of the Episcopal Church for over 35. I remember being a little Gay boy of 10, running through the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church, Verdun, Quebec, pausing in awe before the altar, sensing “God” was there. But remember, this was a French Roman Catholic culture – and my father had been raised a Roman Catholic. I lived in a “religious” culture that preached that stuff about “God” being ready to gunch you for your sins – a “God” who needed to be “propitiated” and “conciliated”. But I knew, intuitively, at age 10, that this was NOT God. I knew – I don’t know why, but I believe it to be the work of the Mystery of the Spirit - that God loved me as I was, indeed that I was God’s creation. If anything would convince me that “God” exists, this would.

I say this, decades later: “God” – however “God” came to exist in the human mind and heart – has no need or desire to be “propitiated” or “conciliated”. None at all. God has no desire or need to be “superior” - the story of Jesus proves this. Nor to “direct the course of human nature”.

God only desires to be a Companion, helping us through Life, being an inner Teacher (Rabbi). We despair, God holds and whispers Hope. We screw up, God forgives at the barest indication of our regret, and encourages us to get on with Life. We collapse, God lifts us up. We doubt our worth, God lavishes us with glory and praise. God has no desire to direct or control – this is not Godlike, at least not the God of the Gospel I “know”.

It’s 2009. It’s time for us all to change. I wish us all to know this “God”. The God of Compassion, Justice, Equality, Peace, Tenderness, Companionship, Faithfulness.

May this “God” fill your Life – and our World – in 2009.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Dec 31, 2008

It is better to eat meat and drink wine and not to eat
the flesh 
of one's brethren through slander. 

- Abba Hyperechius, early Christian sage

Ah, the tongue! Christian Scripture reminds us that, though the “smallest of organs in the body”, it can do the most damage.

The tongue has many masters/mistresses: pride; arrogance; lack of self-worth; anger; meanness; the list is endless. When we are “taken over” by any of these tyrants, anything is likely to come out of our mouth, especially if we are not paying attention to what’s going on in Life, our Life.

It is hard work, keeping ourselves protected from vulnerability to all those things that afflict and twist the human spirit! It is hard work to “remember” how essentially beloved, valued, treasured we human beings are. So easy to be down on ourselves.

There is a lot of nonsense that has been written over 2000 years of Christianity, believe me! Nonsense promoting self-abasement and hatred, renunciation of the “flesh”, denigration of humanity, human degenerateness. None of this is commensurate with the God of Love.

So, eat, drink, enjoy the gifts of Life. But never make dinner of a sister or brother. If you hear yourself doing so, you know you are in trouble. You know you have abandoned your humanity.

Repent and ask God for it back. You will be renewed.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, December 30, 2008

We look forward to the time when the power to love
will replace the love of power. Then will our world
know the blessings of peace.

- William Gladstone, 4 times PM of Great Britain,
who was born Dec 29, 1809

There used to be a service organization called The Optimists. Do they still exist? We could use a lot of optimism these days!

Gladstone is being pretty optimistic – and that is a good thing in a politician, I think. And I would say that, close to the heart of Christianity, is the Message “May the power of Love replace the love of power.” If the choice of the Cross has anything to say, it is to spit in the face of the wrong kind of power.

These days, the desperate need for Peace is cacophonous. Israel and Gaza is but a metaphor for the global crisis of the absence of Peace – which is always the sign of the absence of Justice and of Compassion and of love of neighbour. I hear a version of Paul’s cry ringing all around: “Who will deliver us!”

It won’t be one person. I hope that Obama will contribute, but he will need help. And it won’t be just humans. It will be Mystery and Spirit, as well as human beings who connect to a vision for our World. But this “vision” is not going to be imposed from without, I don’t think. I don’t believe that’s the way Life – or “God” – works. It will come from within, born out of what Mystery imbedded in our human nature I am not sure. It will come from that place where the concept of God as Good lives. But I know it is there. In my meditation, I often ponder why it is we refuse to choose Peace. Is the power of Evil that great? I guess it is. (The Gospel seems to agree.) Or - is it Fear? Isolation? Tribalism?

I am not sure how I can contribute. But I am going to call for Peace. Connect to it where I can. Because I absolutely believe that the power to love can replace the love of power - somewhere, sometime. Evidence or not, I choose optimism. May my naiveté be smiled upon.


p.s. Gladstone also said, for pondering:

Justice delayed is justice denied. (Bet you thought an American said that!)

Nothing that is morally wrong can be politically right.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Dec 26, 2008
Boxing Day in some places!
The Feast of St. Stephen (Christian)

Commerce changes the fate and genius of nations.

- Thomas Gray, playwright & poet, born on this day,
1741 (wrote “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”)

Don’t it though! Almost all humanity is learning this lesson right now, for the umpteenth time in history. It will be a bumpy ride. And, as is “normal”, we will discard the lesson as soon as things “improve” a bit. But, I’m looking on the bright side. We may have enough time in the “slough of despond” that at least a few people will rethink Life habits, and perhaps some industries will make a little progress, and perhaps maybe even a nation or two will progress a little, before we dive back in again to over-consumption, SUV’s (soon to run on ….. ?), etc.

What funny beings we are! I’d like to think that we will preserve Mother Earth as a beautiful, healthy place - but I suspect/fear we will trash Her in the end and move to some other places in the Solar System! C’est la vie. Hopefully the Polar Bears will have begun the evolutionary journey of changing colour and getting different paw pads and have adapted to asphalt.

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor.

A stanza from “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”. Whatever else we do in our future “progress”, may we remember Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, or, as Eugene Peterson translates it in The Message: “You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”.

The World can go its way. Meanwhile, I’m going to work on “less of me”, and try to keep Life and enjoyment “short and simple”.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Dec 25, 2008
Feast of the Incarnation (Christian)

“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me
if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but
does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if
Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it
to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth
to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time:
When the Son of Man is begotten in us.”

- Meister Eckhart 1260-1328

May each of us become fully the person we are created to be - especially as loving.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Dec 24, 2008
Eve of the Feast of the Incarnation (Christian)

The true meaning of religion is thus, not simply
morality, but morality touched by emotion.

- Matthew Arnold, poet, who was born on this day, 1822

This is the man who also said, “It is so small a thing to have enjoyed the sun, to have lived light in the spring, to have loved, to have thought, to have done.” With all of which I certainly agree.

But. The quote about “morality” - even the word these days makes me shudder, when related to Faith and the Bible. The Bible is essentially NOT about morality, as popularly understood. Meaning “sex”, and getting caught at things like pyramid schemes, and Enron-like behaviour, and hedge-fund manipulation.

The Gospel is certainly about “morality touched by emotion” – which is to say, about morals as defined by the Mystery of Love. Love transforms the definition of “morality”. Drenched in Love, Morality collapses as a Rule of Life and becomes a way of defining what it means to be human. If there was any argument for the “humanity” of Jesus, as well as the nature of God, His choice to risk the Cross because of an indeflectible love for God’s suffering people clinches it. Morality isn’t regulations; Morality is learning the art of Love.

St. Paul used the terms “Law” and “Spirit”. Unfortunately. Because ancient Israelite Law was indeed an expression of Divine Love. Alas, it has today come to mean a heartless legalism which has no heart for human struggles.

A lot has been written about the “true meaning of religion”. A lot of it humbug! I may be being simplistic at the moment, but I would say that a good start for a definition of “religion”, i.e., getting and staying connected to the Mystery of God, is “to have enjoyed the sun, to have lived light in the spring, to have loved, to have thought, to have done.”

Christmas approaches. All it means is, God’s home is in each of us, in all of us.” That truth is where we human beings will find Ecstasy!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008

“where I was still told to my face that modern art can only be Jews.”

- Peggy Guggenheim, connoisseur, who died on this day, 1979

I really, really don’t “get it”. I just don’t. I think it has something to do with having been born in Canada. But, I guess that is what I would like to think - because I can remember snide comments about the “Jews in Rosemount” when I lived in Montreal. Not surprising; they were the “aristocracy!

Oh, I remember so well the Guggenheim in Venezia!! I spent two days there, about 5 hours each day. What a lovely place! Exquisite pieces of art of all sorts. In a simple, clean space really, which I loved because it reminds me of the best Benedictine abbeys. I took with me a flask of red wine and a Panini of wonderful summer salami and artichoke. I couldn’t eat it in the museum, but I was allowed (God bless the Venetians!) in the gardens outside, where I sat for over an hour in the summer sun, in sheer bliss!

Theologically, I would hope that we could all be like Peggy Guggenheim, or like the “Jews” so maligned by the people who denigrated Peggy’s taste in art to her face. She could see the new truths. She could “see” that every era brought new understandings about Life.

The Bible is not a stagnant “museum piece”. It relies on the foundations of its Time - but it leaves Itself open to every generation to appreciate the “something old” and marry it to the “something new”. There will always be something “new” (though there is nothing really “new” under the Sun”) – that’s the way Life IS! Life is never the same – and Life gains its vitality and Mystery from that reality.

May there be countless Peggy Guggenheims in every aspect of human Life! People who can “see” the potentiality in Humanity to change and grow and learn. I guess I believe that every generation that has “failed” has done so simply because it could not break down the walls of its own cultural prison and deepen in Wisdom.

Hail Peggy Guggenheim! Thanks for those lovely spaces in awash Venice and in “trendy” Manhattan , where the “old” and the “new” bear witness to the eternal possibilities of human Life.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, December 22, 2008

Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that.
Yes, yes, it's the most comical thing in the world.

- Samuel Becket, playwright, who died on this day, 1989

Samuel Becket was too intelligent to have said these words and have meant them literally. Like most imaginative people. His words, to me, are full of an arch irony, even of a good bit of wisdom.

Why are most people unhappy? Some from suffering inflicted on them, that’s true. And there may be more of these than I understand. But I think Becket was talking about the huge number of people who are unhappy for only one basic reason: they have chosen to be, either consciously or unconsciously. Sometimes a good therapist can really help. Sometimes a “spiritual” guide. Sometimes the “rock bottom”, as the AA people understand.

Well, I don’t know the numbers. But I do know that I know many who have “chosen” unhappiness, actively, or passively, or emotionally - aware or unaware. I’ve done it. I’ve been unhappy and angry for decades about the whole situation of Gayfolk in our culture. And I can see that this was a “choice”. I am working on changing this. It has brought a great deal of negativity and stress and lack of energy into my life.

If you are an unhappy person, stare it in the face – but ask gently and lovingly if you have “chosen” it. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Think of all the people (if you are familiar with the Gospel) Jesus helped to see the source of their unhappiness.

The Mystery called “God”, as I know God, desires to lift this burden of unhappiness.

“Funny” and “comical” are Becket’s euphemisms for “sad” and “destructive”.

Let God take them. That’s one of the reasons we have God.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Sat/Sun, Dec 20/21, 2008

Salvation to all that will is nigh ;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo ! faithful Virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb ; and though He there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He'll wear,
Taken from thence, flesh, which death's force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son, and Brother ;
Whom thou conceivest, conceived ; yea, thou art now
Thy Maker's maker, and thy Father's mother,
Thou hast light in dark, and shutt'st in little room
Immensity, cloister'd in thy dear womb.

- John Donne 1572-1631

A poem by the Anglican priest John Donne. It speaks to the Mystery of the Annunciation, which is the reading from the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday in Advent. (Tomorrow)

The Christian Community looks with Hope to the “coming” of the Christ, the Saviour. But Meister Eckhart, the 13th C. mystic, makes it clear what it is that we are expecting and hoping for:

“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.”

Ponder Donne’s poem. Note especially his words: Ere by the spheres time was created thou Wast in His mind. God is always seeking us. God can only be manifest in the World through us. We are being asked to say “Yes”, with Mary, so that God can shine forth from us.

Four days from now, we will celebrate the God has “made His home with us”. God will not do so without our consent.

Say “Yes”, with she who became the Mother of the Maker.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Dec 19, 2008

All I've done all my life is disobey.

I've been thinking about Jesus. Don't you find it a
bit strange that, since He was living with His family
and all, He up and left them just when they needed
Him most?

- Edith Piaf (“The Little Sparrow”) , born on this day, 1915

God bless Edith Piaf! She is right about Jesus. Jesus challenged every accepted concept about God. A good thing – because human beings tend to remake God in their own image, to meet their own needs and prejudices. Jesus was a Disobeyer. He held to His beliefs – to His death. Very few people today (or ever) understand His message.

I haven’t disobeyed enough. I’ve kowtowed, in the vain hope that “things would change” and the Gospel would prevail. Vain hope. Just as I now must give up my hope in Barack Obama. He may think that he is “doing the right thing” in asking Rick Warren to pray at the inauguration. It is, to Gayfolk, like asking Hitler to preside at the Seder. And to Christians, asking Osama ben Laden to value people of other faiths.

Jesus rejected conventionality in order to stand up for God’s Justice and Truth. He died for it. Family is not blood; it’s who you choose who do God’s Will.

Like Piaf, I will now disobey. Once you have made the wrong choice, God’s will for Justice and Truth and Compassion is abandoned.

Obama has made the wrong choice. He has chosen to reward bigotry. He does not deserve to be our President.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, December 18, 2008

Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the
narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.

- Carl Jung, scientist of the Mind

Guilty, guilty, guilty. I confess and admit it. I keep thinking that we human beings can improve. Did I mention that Dennis and I went to see the movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still” recently?? At the heart of the movie was the question: “Can we change?” Or, more importantly, “Will we Change?” The alien in the movie was apparently “moved” by the love between a child and his adoptive mother ….. apparently he saw that Love makes a difference. I like to think so. And the Gospel asks us to think so. And to live on this Principle.

I am definitely an Idealist – by choice, because I am a Christian. Though the power of that Idealism has lessened in the last several years. I am deeply discouraged by the World. We seem to be choosing all the “bad” things: intolerance, brokenness, separation, condescension, power-mongering, fear, xenophobia, and much more that is damaging to shared Life on this planet. Sad.

I do not intend to give up Idealism. I was taught that we were made in the “image of God”. And I learned that “God” is Love and Justice and Mercy and Compassion. I have thought about this. We “created” God – and God is what we humans most hope for ourselves – even if we ignore it most of the time.

Narcotics and alcohol are temporary “solutions”. We all know this. Belief in our Godliness is not a fantasy. It is an expression of our deepest intuitive understanding that we are Beautiful.

I believe in our Human Beauty.

Join me.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy?
I don't know and I don't care.

- William Safire, philosopher, born on this day, 1929

Ignorance. Apathy. What Mr. Safire has jocularly said about sloppiness in speech can as well be said about Religion! I am amazed at the ignorance of “religious” people! Dennis and I were at Vespers tonight; we go regularly for a fine, quiet, reflective, meditative, shared time of prayer. One member spoke about a Roman Catholic friend with whom she had been talking. The friend had said how he had no idea about the “Seasons of the Church”. What Advent was all about. He had only noticed that the priest was wearing different colour vestments – but had no idea why. Good Grief, Charlie Brown!

William Safire reminds me that we have to laugh! God, what strange creatures we human beings are. It would really be a good thing if we could all remember this.

But let’s think for a moment about ignorance and apathy. Neither of these things should apply to any human being wanting to understand who they are and what Life is all about. And it certainly should never apply to “theology”. The Inner God wants us to understand who we are, and does NOT want us to be apathetic about it. It is NOT appropriate not to want to “know”, and it is NOT appropriate not to care!

Let’s not be sloppy about knowing who we are and about “fighting” (this is a metaphorical term; it has nothing to do with literal killing; it has to do with inner transformation) to become human, fully human.

Who are you? BE that. Then Life is about clarifying that who you are trying to BE is truly authentic. Christianity says that “authentic” is to be “in the image of God”. If you other than Christian, including non-theistic, what does this mean for you?”

Oh, I love Safire’s humour. But. Let’s know ….. and let’s care.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,
and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

- Article Three of the Bill of Rights, which took effect on Dec 15th,
1791, following ratification by the State of Virginia.

If I were to concede that the Holy Spirit of “God” was directly at work in the foundation of the American Experiment, I would say that Article Three of the Bill of Rights was/is a glorious example of that “working”.

What it anticipates, in my view, is the inherent bigotry of Religion. Perhaps they did not directly “see it coming”; even people like Jefferson seldom transcend their time and culture. But come it did. Pluralism. Multi-culturalism. An enormous diversity of peoples and Faiths and Religions. At a time when American Indian spiritual life had been almost ground out of existence, and a particularly virulent form of “Christianity” (which is not really, in my view, anything resembling Christianity) was taking hold as the foundation of American Christianity. What a curse this has been!

And what a time we are having of it in our own day! Every religion on Earth (practically) is now a part of American Life. And we now live in a time when “Christianity” is popularly represented in the culture by religiously zenophobic exclusivists who are limited enough to believe that “God” only works through them. God, of course, laughs.

Thank God for the Third Amendment. And let’s hope that the Supreme Court can be rescued from those who read it only through the eyes of Christianist limitations.

Again we have a chance to show that the founding concept of “America” is indeed great! No Religion has all the ”Truth”. Every authentic religion (and there are many that are not!) is seeking to understand the Mystery of what it means to be Human. No Religion can replace “God” with any idol ….. be it their sacred texts, their cultural prejudices, or whatever. Only scared religionists who fear the “loss” of their power in America today are fighting to exclude the insights and deny due respect of other faiths from our cultural life.

Despite the public radioactivity of many fringe religionists these days, it is time for the sensible among us, religious and non-religious, to press our position. To uphold the truth that all men and women are created equal. To deny bigots the right to co-opt the Third Amendment to their own narrow-minded advantage.

Allow no “establishment”. Allow no dominance. Value the role of Sense in Religion. Rejoice (what an Advent theme!, as well as a theme of Harvey Milk and of Barack Obama!) in searching together for Respect. The beauty of Humanity can rise again and make a better World. Brian+

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Sat/Sun, Dec 13/14, 2008

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.

- Thessalonians 5 (Epistle for Advent III_RCL)

I have reached a very very fascinating time of my Life. All my Life I have questioned things. But now, I question things even more. I have, because of and after the last 40 years, come to understand the Mystery of the Bible, and especially the Gospel. Come to understand the exquisitely subtle and beautiful way the Mystery of “God” reveals itself.

I have no idea who actually wrote the Letter to the people of Thessalonica. Maybe “St. Paul” ….. but who really knows. But I can tell you, my dear friends, that the two “commandments” I have quoted I know to be at the core of Life. “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing”. I can, at 62, and after and with a passel of health issues from which I could have died but am still surviving, REJOICE. I LOVE Life! I love this Creation. I love the beauty, the hues, the sunrises and sunsets, the diversity of peoples, the exquisite loveliness of every human being (except those who hate, especially those who invoke Jesus for their hate ….. I have work to do here! ), the poetry and power of Art, the wonder of Liturgy. And, if I may use the language of the Scriptures, I “hate” the false and dangerous piety of the Anita Bryants of this World and weep at the deep humanity and the vulnerability of Harvey Milk (Oh God, Dennis and I went to see the movie “Milk” tonight - every cell of my body was challenged to help the Wounded America, perverted by Puritanism, to be healed!!).

I must work at Rejoicing Always. God, I have had a wonderful Life!! And I must remember to “Pray without ceasing”. Not because prayer changes God, or the World, but because it “changes” me. It keeps reminding me that there is no presence of God in the World without ME being the Presence of God in the World - and YOU being the Presence of God in the World.

I realize again tonight that I have been so blessed. Wonderful, glorious friends, and amazing experiences. If I were to die tomorrow, I would be filled with content and with a deep sense of Peace. I would have only one worry. God is depending on YOU to bring about the Kingdom of Love, Of Peace, of “Heaven” on this Earth - that thing we pray for at every recitation of the “Lord’s Prayer”.

Do not fail me Friends. Do not fail me ….. or God.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Dec 12, 2008

One mustn't ask apple trees for oranges, France
for sun, women for love, life for happiness.

- Gustave Flaubert, Author, born on this day, 1821

I am fascinated by people! Why do they say the things they do?? They don’t say ….. unless they keep very detailed journals. So, we are “free” to speculate, and to wonder.

Apple trees from oranges. OK. Makes sense. France for sun? Well, I spent several weeks in the south of France, on the Mediterranean, in Menton, in July. Perfect! Every day was gloriously sunny; the beach (though rocky) was wonderful as I lay on my purchased straw mat with my thick towel underneath; where the women sunbathed bare-breasted (which I thought, condescendingly I admit, was nice for the “straight” men, as well as being sensible in the right moral way ), and the men were in thongs, perfect for Gay men – isn’t it ironic how moralistic society caters to Gay men?? And to Lesbians – Victorian England made no laws against Gay women because Queen Victoria couldn’t imagine that women would engage in such relationships! Oh friends, let me tell you: I have no idea what experience Flaubert had of France, or where, but he is wrong about sun!

Women for love??? This man must have had very bad Life experiences, or been warped in some way. Normal men and women are made for Love! All people are, wherever they are attracted by nature.

Life for happiness?? Oh, I feel sorry for Flaubert. Life – certainly as I have experienced it – is gloriously made for happiness ….. if one can get beyond all the crap that religionists and control freaks burden it with!

Metaphorically speaking, ASK France for sun! ASK women (and men) for Love. ASK Life for Happiness. This is the way that God organized it. For God’s sake, BE REAL!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Dec 11, 2008

That Justice is a blind goddess
Is a thing to which we black are wise:
Her bandage hides two festering sores
That once perhaps were eyes.

- Langston Hughes, poet

Boy/Girl, can you not hear the echo of the Hebrew prophet Amos in these lines??!! They are like a visual parable. I can see that statue of Justice, blindfolded ….. with streams of blood and the festering of sores seeping down her face. And the eyes – if the blindfold were removed – blind with disease, blind with the rot of corruption.

Oh, not because Justice has Herself given up. But because Justice has depended on men and women to be Her instruments in the World ….. and She has been forsaken.

This is why Prop 8 in California was passed (though happily by a small margin), with the Mormon Church and the Roman Catholic Church acting as the handmaids of Injustice. This is why 1/7th of Americans have no health coverage; Insurance companies and politicians and many doctors acting as handmaidens of Injustice. This is why many workers make the Minimum Wage, or even more, and sleep at night in homeless shelters and eat at soup kitchens and buy clothes at second-hand shops; most of us in the so-called “middle class”, preserving our own meager “benefits”, acting as the handmaids of Injustice. The example are endless. Why are the people rioting in Greece, given a push by the police killing of a teenager? Because the lid is coming off around the World, the lid of vast numbers of people barely making it, while a small elite rule and have an obscene life-style. Robert Mugabe living in luxury while the people of Zimbabwe die of starvation and cholera?? Lady Justice weeps while those who should be Her handmaids greedily hoard.

Mr. Hughes was speaking of American blacks, but his parable is universal. We had better pay attention ….. or soon the World will be writhing in the fire of Injustice. And there will be no one else to blame but ourselves.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Dec 10, 2008

Love is anterior to life,
Posterior to death,
Initial of creation, and
The exponent of breath

- Emily Dickinson, poet, born
on this day, 1830, Amherst MA

Ah, the Belle of Amherst!

I awoke at 2:00am last night. It’s the dammed prostate thing! I have no idea how long this is going to go on – it’s been two months now. Some nights, I come back to bed and I fall immediately asleep. Others, I know within thirty seconds that I am not going to go back to sleep. And I have learned to grab a book and read. Happily, my partner is not disturbed by light. I was up from 2am until almost 5.

What kept me awake was my brain. Once it starts thinking, that’s it. Last night I thought about Love. What IS it? What are its characteristics? Is Love enough to make Life “work”? I’ve worked on understanding It for decades now. Jesus life and teaching has been central, and then my experience – often teaching hard lessons. I have learned to distinguish Love from infatuation and from sentimentality and from sex. If we just Love – as I often propose – will it really make Life work, bring happiness and Joy and Peace? Or am I being naïve?

Emily is a Romantic. I guess I am too. I believe Love is at the heart of it all, the very breath of Life. It isn’t airy-fairy. It is hard-nosed reality. It takes a strong person, a faithful person, to believe and to practice.

I guess I believe in Love because it’s simple and clear. Uncomplicated. Anyone can understand it.

So I keep on.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, December 9, 2008

For what can war, but endless war, still breed?

- John Milton, poet, born on this date, 1608

I have been reading Milton. He is, I have decided, an utter bore. No wonder I couldn’t relate to him when I was a young man in college! He is utterly what I am NOT when it comes to religion, Christianity, “morality”. He is a moralist, stuck in his own culture, unable to get beyond that puckered-up prudishness of his time. A shame, really. Such intellect and skill wasted, simply because one was born into “one’s Time”. But ….. that is the problem with evangelicalism and so-called pentecostalistists today, as well as with Christian denominations which have abandoned the Gospel in favour of preserving their temporal power (you know who they are!): they have chosen to worship culturally-prejudiced versions of the Bible in place of the Living God of Justice and Peace.

Milton is however, I believe, quite “bang on” about War. TGIK (I will use this acronym from now on for “The God I Know”) does not believe that War solves anything. Period. It breeds only inhumanity. Sin. War puts me in a real bind. I would be in a real “pickle” as to what to do in the face of a new “Hitler”. And of course I don’t want any human being to suffer, be maimed, etc. But people in America today chose this path, since we have a volunteer military. I watch the ads on TV; young people are despicably seduced into the military with false promises of an honourable life, of heroism, of economic assistance ….. all of which is, like most advertising, deceitful and misleading. And morally wrong.

Endless war can only breed hate and destruction and chaos and a delusional sense of what it means to be a moral person. I am appalled at the number of Americans (men especially) who have been corrupted by some perverted sense of Christianity which implies that being a soldier is a worthy thing. It is not. I see those bumper stickers on cars and I just cringe.

I call upon all Christian teachers and leaders to denounce War for what it is: a failure of Love, a failure of faithfulness to God. Already I see Obama being seduced from his campaign path. Power corrupts.

Endless War breeds only the infantilisation of Humanity. Pray for a end to the glorification of War and of Militarism and of Warriors.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, December 8, 2008

All (wo)men should strive to learn before they die,
what they are running from, and to, and why.
[brackets mine]

- James Thurber, American artist, humourist &
cartoonist, born on this date, 1894

Nicely put! And wise. Here are my answers for the present – remembering that this process of learning is a never-ending task, and one with a multiple of “answers” depending on how open one is to the infinite quality of Experience. Each day can bring surprises.

I am “running from” self-deception. I am constantly amazed at how something inside of me wants to deceive myself. I suspect that this is because I somehow feel that the truth will be too difficult to deal with intellectually and emotionally. No wonder all great teachers on Life tell us in some fashion that the truth will free us, even if painful.

I am “running to” Mystery. I am weary of the conceit that answers bring Peace and Clarity. Very seldom.

I am “running from” because self-deception diminishes me and everyone else. Self-deception keeps everyone in a cage. I am “running to” because Mystery makes for a much more charming and less stressful Life. Mystery expects more, and makes obsessive control unnecessary.

Listen to some good advice then: Do not be afraid.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Sat/Sun, Dec 6/7, 2008

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she
has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she
has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.

- Isaiah 40 (from the Readings for Advent II)

If God were the litigious sort, She would spend her whole life at suing for libel. (Which would, at least, be a very focused Life.) Why “God” works the way He does I have no idea. It seems self-defeating to me, if not self-abusive. But I suppose that there is some Mystery here that I don’t – and never will perhaps? – understand?

Might it have something to do with the Mystery of Vulnerability?? God seems constantly to be willing and choosing to put Herself at the mercy of human beings. Human beings “make God in their own image” - and God doesn’t fight back! And boy, do human beings take advantage of it! Attributing all sorts of things to God - appalling things, like anger, murder, tyranny, meanness, revenge, hate, vindictiveness, partisanship ….. the list is horrifying. At least to me – though alas, there seem to be a lot of people these days who “take to” such a God. This is the God of Terrorism in all its forms.

But. Vulnerability indeed has a great Mystery to it. I think I’ve seen into it. Vulnerability eventually touches a heart seeking Love. And then you see what “God” is really about. Comfort. Tenderness. Compassion. Heartbreak. Anguish. We human beings create all our own pain and suffering. God has nothing to do with it. And in our venality, we try to co-opt God, make God an accomplice. But God won’t play the game. God gives up Her Life, won’t fight back on our terms. Eventually, any human heart longing for Love sees the true God, instead of the One we concoct.

Hear the message, O People. Comfort. Freedom. For every sin, God has poured out double of Love. Can we not live in this enormous generosity??


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Dec 5, 2008

I never did very well in math - I could never seem to per-
suade the teacher that I hadn't meant my answers literally.

- Calvin Trillin, author, born on this day, 1935

“God” has the same problem. And Jesus still has the same problem today. He told these wonderful parables. Good stories, with great, engaging detail. With nasty landlords and kings and tenants. And people today still don’t get it that all that stuff isn’t meant to be taken literally. Many people will read about a landlord who kills the wicked servants who mistreated his servants and killed his son in their greed, and they will say, “See, God punishes those who don’t do what He wants; that’s the way God is!” Utter rubbish! The story is not about God’s character. It’s about how justice should work among human beings.

The same is true with the story of Jesus. And with His “miracles”. The story of Jesus is essentially about the Presence of God in Creation and in each of us human beings. It’s about how our matter is given life by spirit; it is about dying to our animal nature and becoming fully human by being infused by the Divine; it is about discovering Love and Compassion as the core essence of being alive; it is about suffering leading us to trust; it is about the mystery of death and resurrection freeing us from fear. It’s about how each of us is a daughter or son of God. Every dimension of the person and life of Jesus is about the destiny of each of us.

“Miracles” are not magician’s tricks. They are about the endless ways that God raises us from dead places (resurrection, Lazarus, the widow’s son), calms the storms of destruction with Love (Noah’s ark, walking on the water), nourishes our minds and hearts and spirits with “Heavenly food and drink” (Elijah’s cornmeal and oil, manna, loaves and fishes, Cana), and so on.

Literalism trivializes. It builds houses of cards that collapse because they are built on sand.

Build your life on “rock”. On the stories’ meaning. And your Life will stand.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Dec 4, 2008

- “Colourful Life”, by Wassily Kandinsky,
who was born on this day, 1866

The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul”, said Kandinsky. He learned this (in my view) from that artist of the Universe we call “God”, Whose business is the training of the Soul, i.e., of us. Resistant as we are! It is said that “God” is indeflectible. Must be true. A lot of us are “trained” by inappropriate adults to be dour; if we are lucky, the dour ones lose! I am glad to say that, in my case, I was lucky and they lost big time! I have a built in rebellious nature! Next to being a disciple of the Gospel, I am next a “hedonist”. I drink in every richness of Life.

Look at this painting! Vibrant! ( If you can't see it, go here: and scroll down). The place it reminds me the most of is Brasil. I had the great pleasure to spend several days and nights on the beach in Salvador, Bahia, Brasil. If I had the money (and Dennis would go), I would live there. The women wear brilliant white, but at night, on the beach, there is music and singing, and the men and women wear glorious colours. There was horrible poverty in Salvador ….. but it only takes a beach and simple instruments and simple food and a fire and community to make an evening of delight. I have been many places, from Park Avenue fancy penthouses, to Venetian dinner parties, to Aztec dinners on the beach in Mexico, to elegant parties in the Caribbean. Give me Salvador any time – unpretentious simple joy!

The “Christmas Season” is coming. In our culture, it can be full of false colour, bravely trying to hide the drabness and the garishness of consumerist life. Give all that up this Christmas. Buy nothing. Worship simply and quietly. Make simple acts of Love. Your life will glow with true colours that will gladden your Being.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Exhaust the little moment.
Soon it dies. And be it gash or gold
it will not come
Again in this identical guise.

- Gwendolyn Brooks, poet, died on
this day, 2000. First African-American
woman to win the Pulitzer prize

Many have given the advice to “live in the present moment”. The Bible has a wonderful saying (which I was brought up to think frivolous) - Eat, drink, and be merry – for tomorrow you die. Frivolous it isn’t. It’s very profound. It isn’t encouraging us to be shallow, or drunks, or fools. It’s simply reminding us that Life happens in the present moment. If we don’t live the present moment to its full - and that’s ALL of it, including the “bad” - the past, even its memory, is empty and the future is destined to be meaningless and disappointing.

I have a lesson to learn here. There is a core part of me that is wanting to live the moment as passionately as possible. But there is another part of me – where did I learn this? – that has a tyrant schedule ruling my Life. Time to go. Time to leave this event, this person. Time to stop listening or being concerned or fascinated by another. The future calls, commitments have been made. Having “retired”, I find it a real struggle not to get kidnapped by a sense that there are “other things to do”. So, the other day, I was birding at Lake Cachuma. It got to be 2pm. After three hours, I hadn’t seen the Greater White-fronted Goose!! But in my head was a voice: “You have this to do, and that; time to leave”. I almost did. Then the Moment broke in: “Relax. The World won’t end.” I stayed, sat down on the shore in the lovely afternoon sun. And the Greater White-fronted Goose finally sailed in like a galleon.

The theme of Advent is “Be Aware, Awake”. It is in the Moment that the Mystery of God and of Self reveals itself. Only Life in the Present provides a past and a future of any truth and power.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Dec 2, 2008

Don’t talk to me about rules, dear.
Wherever I stay I make the goddam rules.

- Maria Callas, diva, born on this day, 1923

Kathleen Battle, the singer of gorgeous Mozart, had the same problem, though I’m not sure if it was for the same reasons. I knew her when she sang in the choir of Christ Church, Cincinnati. Exquisite voice ….. but “stuck on herself”. She was later fired by the Met Director, Rudolf Bing. Too bitchy and imperious and downright rude and arrogant. So it is said.

If you have to “make the goddam rules”, you’ve gotten something seriously wrong in the business of being happy – and human. Having to “make the goddam rules” radiates insecurity, and fantasy, and a kind of pathetic infantilism. Much as I could appreciate Callas for her sheer bravado (with what I still maintain was a fairly unruly and undisciplined voice - which was part of her charism!), I saw her as a person stunted in her growth. She never got beyond being an emotional child who married her “father”. Why Jackie married Onassis eludes me; was she too was a frightened child running from the World?

Callas’ statement is the exact opposite of a mature human being. A mature human being knows that “making the goddam rules” is a refusal or inability to grow up. It’s to live in the World of Unreality. It’s Hitlerian. Delusional. And terribly sad.

Needing to “make the goddam rules”, unilaterally, means you haven’t joined the human race. We Americans have had a sickening surfeit of that in the last eight years. Jesus roundly lambasted his contemporaries for the same mistake. When you lose touch with the suffering and the welfare and the happiness of others, you become a caricature of a person.

The “rules” of being authentically human filter to us from the heart of the Universe. They are built in. Their wisdom lives in the shared human Unconscious, enhanced by each generation’s experience.

Time to listen.