Sunday, May 31, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, June 1, 2009

I must go down to the sea again,
to the lonely sea and the sky;
and all I ask is a tall ship
and a star to steer her by.

- John Masefield, poet, born on
this date, 1878, Herefordshire

Do young people learn poems by heart anymore? There are a few I learned as a kid that I still remember to this day – and this one by John Masefield is one of them. Masefield was Poet Laureate of England (1930-67) when I was a schoolboy. I remember being called upon to “declaim” – and, being a little ham, I loved it. I couldn’t throw a football, but I could recite poetry! Two other favourites: “Ozymandias”, and “Abou ben Adam”.

There is another line I remember affecting me: “I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life”. I indeed have spent much of my life on the go – and I am glad that I have. But not only my “outer” life, but my “inner” life has had that quality. I didn’t actually cultivate it; I feel it was just a given of being me. I was centered in Christianity, having been sent as a child to the Presbyterian Church. But from there I in a sense chose a “vagrant gypsy” life. Chose Anglicanism/sacramentalism, monastic life, parish ministry (though it chose me rather than the other way around). And new ideas and paths just keep coming! At 62, I keep coming across things that amaze me, intrigue me, confuse me, thrill me. I think it will go on – and I want it to. Coming to a halt in the “inner” life doesn’t seem appropriate – it would be a too-soon death.

The “star to steer her by” has turned out to be Mystery. And the great thing is, Mystery never runs out of the World. I like the “vagrant Gypsy life” !


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, May 30, 2009
[The Feast of Pentecost in the Christian Calendar]

Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will
cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.

- the Prophet Ezekiel, from the readings for

“And you shall live”. This is what it is all about. How do we live fully as human beings. We know that we are united with the Life Force of the Universe (metaphor: “God the Father”). We know that the same Life- giving Reality defines the nature of both the Divine and the Human (metaphor: “God the Son”). And we know that there is no dualism, no “God out there”. (metaphor: “God the Holy Spirit”). “God” lives in us, “inhabits” the whole of the Universe. And when we “see” this, we Live.

The Feast of Pentecost has two foci: One, we discover the Unity of All Things; Two: we shift the goal of our lives towards achieving that Unity – with the Earth, with the Universe, with Time, with Eternity, with every living thing that makes up the context of our Life. With Friend and Enemy – but the distinction dissipates. And most important of all, we stop blaming “God” for the direction of our Lives. The proverbial Buck stops with us. WE are responsible for the outcome of our Lives. Either we embrace the true nature of our Being or we do not. The pain of our earthly Life is directly in proportion to our abdication of Who We Are. There is no one to blame but ourselves for the mess.

Let’s stand tall! There is nothing more exhilarating that accepting responsibility for ourselves, and for the human community.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, May 29, 2009

Serial: HT6252
Model: 2700
Size: 25mm
Position: Aortic
Material: Bovine

- Identification of the heart valve, replaced
in me on this date, 2002

It seems that a lot of the things that have been seriously wrong with me health-wise have been “genetic”, i.e., I was born with them. Bi- instead of tri-valve aortic valve; hole in my heart; diverticulitis, in an unusually long colon. Perhaps the only major thing that I wasn’t born with was a very diseased gall bladder; that I can attribute to myself via Dr. Atkins and his diet – I did lose 70 pounds, but it later had a price. All that lovely fat one could eat, you know! (During those years, my friends would often ask me if I would like some bread with my butter!)

So, now I carry around the little card on which the aortic valve info is recorded. (I have, as well, one for the disks that were implanted in my heart to close the hole.) Just in case something “goes wrong”. But that isn’t the main reason I carry them around, and see them when I am ruffling through my wallet for my credit card or my Starbucks card (which Dennis, bless his heart, occasionally “tops up”). I carry it to remind myself of four things: (a) to be grateful for medical science (b) to be grateful for every day I have alive (c) to enjoy every day as much as I can (d) to try and be the person I want to be.

Some people are known to decry replacing parts of the body, on theological grounds. I can only say to that, that once you take an Aspirin, you are on the Slippery Slope! And if I am in a “mood”, I quote Scripture and claim Divine sanction: “I shall take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh”. (My aortic valve was calcified, and I got cow flesh - hee, hee!)

You will get my point. Life is an amazing thing. It is breathtaking that, with all the intricate things that could go wrong, most of the time the brain and body function stunningly well – and repair themselves too.

Almost everyone I know has a body “implant” – even if it’s a filling or a capped tooth. Whatever it is, it’s a message. Don’t waste any of the three score and ten. Relish every minute.

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, May 28, 2009

Drought burns basins to dust,
Light rain is a dew of mockery.
Receive without complaint,
Work with fate.

- Deng Ming-Dao (Taoist)

I am tired. Tired of feeling as if I am at “odds with the World”. Tired of the concept of “competition”, of the sense that we are always jousting with each other to claw our way to the “top” in Life at the expense of each other. Tired of the idea that Life is a battle, a struggle – against illness, poverty, old age, everything! In fact, I discover that it goes against my personal nature in a profound way. Drains my energy – and my Peace. Oh, I have lived in a basically uncompetitive way most of my Life, but I confess that I have always felt a little ashamed of it, especially living in a society that lauds the Warrior.

Acceptance is what I prefer. But, Acceptance as Deng speaks of it: “Acceptance does not mean fatalism. It does not mean capitulation to some slaughtering predestination. Those who follow Tao do not believe in being helpless. They believe in acting within the framework of circumstance. For example, in a drought, they will prepare by storing what water is available. That is sensible action. They will not plant a garden of flowers that requires a great deal of water. That is ignorance and egotism.
Acceptance is a dynamic act. . It should not signal inertness, stagnation, or inactivity. One should simply ascertain what the situation requires and then implement what one thinks is best.”

There are lots of ways to approach Living. Every day these days I ask myself: will the aggressive policies we are pursuing in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in the Sudan, in North Korea, in Iran, in the Economy, in the soup of World terrorism, bring about a more just, compassionate World? Something deep inside tells me No.

Just thought you might like to think about Acceptance, and “working within the framework of circumstance” a bit today! Maybe you’re a little weary of competition and struggle too?


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Brian's Reflection: Wednesday, May 27, 2009

You play the hand you're dealt.
I think the game's worthwhile.

- Christopher Reeve, actor, who became a
quadriplegic on this day, 1995, and became an activist.

As an actor, Christopher Reeve was at one moment young, handsome, and ….. Superman. The next, he was in a wheelchair unable to do anything for himself except talk, with help. And in a way, he went on being Superman - just differently.

This is a parable of Life. It can change completely in a minute. I don’t know where or how Chris Reeve learned how to “take” Life, how to understand it, how to live it, how to cope with what happened to him. Apparently for him God didn’t have anything to do with it; he is reported to have said, “Even though I don't personally believe in the Lord, I try to behave as though He was watching.” But he obviously learned Wisdom along the way. He was dealt several hands, and seems to have played them well. He obviously thought that the Game of Life was worthwhile.

I do too. And I can’t say “how” I learned that. I think it’s part of the Mystery of Life. It comes with the territory of being human, at least the heart of it does. Then it’s almost a crap shoot how we get “raised” and how our life skills are or are not developed, depending on many factors, some of which we have control over and most of which we don’t. If I have a vision for the World, it is that everyone in it will be given all the opportunities and all the tools needed to play out every hand that’s dealt – and critically, to be adjustable when each new one is. I would like to live in a World where every person is committed to making that happen for everyone else. “God”, I think, would be happy with such a World. No one should live in a World where the Game’s not worthwhile.

Gird up your loins. We have a long road ahead of us. Other of Chris Reeve’s words are helpful:

Don't give up. Don't lose hope. Don't sell out.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"Bhoga is Yoga", goes an old Indian saying, or
roughly translated, "delight is religion". Sexual
pleasure and ecstasy provide a foretaste and
preparation for the experience of "mahasukha",
The Great Bliss of Liberation".

- from “Chop Wood, Carry Water”

“Delight is religion”. Now, there’s a fresh idea! Think what the religious world would be like if the job of liturgy planners and worship leaders was to find ways to foster great delight that would lead worshippers to the Great Bliss of Liberation. Sounds good to me. I think that if I had concentrated – or, more to reality, been allowed to concentrate – on Religious Delight as my work, people would probably have been not only drawn more to Religion, but to the God of Delight as well.

And we don’t have to stop at Religion. Life is a lot of things, but think how the quality of Life would be improved if “Delight is Life” were one of the core principles for living! It wouldn’t take long to break down a lot of the inhibitions that have taken a death-grip on Life, to change the basic commandments from “Thou shalt not” to “Thou shalt”! Oh, I can hear the rising disapproval of the Puritans even as I write. Many of us have been taught to be leery of pleasure and ecstasy. (I won’t even mention the S__ word.)

Well, I’m not advocating complete anarchy and hedonism, either in Life or Religion. But maybe a good dash of them would make for a better World in a lot of ways?? Maybe a blossoming of Love, generosity, openness, acceptance?

Think about it!


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, May 25, 2009

All diseases run into one, old age.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson, philosopher, thinker, born
on this day, 1803, in Boston

It may be that I am approaching 63! And/or, that Emerson was young when he said this. Or perhaps it is the “age” in which he was born. He sounds particularly “American Modern” though, in terms of our American penchant for “eternal youth” – though I am glad to see AARP projecting and encouraging a different image!

Needless to say, old age is NOT a disease. Here is a poem by the Greek poet Anacreon (572-488BCE):

Oft am I by the women told,
"Poor Anacreon! thou growest old;
Look; how thy hairs are falling all;
Poor Anacreon, how they fall!"--
Whether I grow old or no,
By the effects I do not know;
But this I know, without being told,
'Tis time to live, if i grow old;
'Tis time short pleasures now to take,
Of little life the best to make,
And manage wisely the last stake.

Over 60? 70? 80? 90? “ ‘Tis time to LIVE”. Look at all the experience, the learning we have accumulated! The Wisdom we have read and tested out. Every age has it’s resources for engaging Life, of course. But Old Age – a particularly graced time! Emerson may have matured by the time he said, “As we grow old, the beauty steals inward.” And I think it is that Beauty, formed of many rich sources, that begets Beauty as a needed gift to the World from the aging.

Let it all hang out baby!


p.s. In case you wonder who really said the following, it was apparently Emerson:

Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, May 22, 2009

The fact is that more people have been slaughtered
in the name of religion than for any other single reason.
That, THAT my friends, is true perversion.

- Harvey Milk, Gay San Francisco Supervisor, murdered;
he was born on this day, 1930

I have been going through a very interesting shift for some time now, but especially since I retired from full-time ministry as an Episcopal priest. Is Religion, on balance, at all useful in the journey of becoming fully human as the Gospel (and many other religions) proposes? I used to think Yes. Now I think No.

This is not to say that religious people have not done kind, caring things for others. Many have. But I have come to realize that, on the whole, Harvey is correct. The negative effects of Religion far outweigh the positive, in my view. In fact, we don’t need millions of people being slaughtered in the name of Religion to justify the charge of perversion. ONE will do.

Organized Religion has stood against Truth, against Scientific Knowledge, against Compassion, against Justice, against Love far too often, and far too viciously, to justify supporting it as it exists. It is time for those who know that the true goal of Religion is to bind together peoples in Love and understanding to reclaim Religion and to reinvent it. Can, will we do this?

I have said before that every culture has invented its own “God”/gods/goddesses. Now is the time for those of us who believe that “God” is meant for the binding together of peoples in Compassion and Dignity to join together and to be focused, amazing instruments of that Compassion and Dignity. It is a simple path.

It will be a hard road in this World we live in. But even the first step will begin to change everything. I call upon all of you: challenge your religious tradition to take up this path. Challenge your own faith community to reject perversion and to take up the amazing path of Divine Love. To uphold the intrinsic value and worth of every human being.

Let us be such an instrument ourselves. Our hearts will swell with Joy and Wonder. What Peace we will know!


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes
for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned
the hard way. Unless it's a fatal mistake, which, at least, others
can learn from.

- Al Franken, comedian, Senator-elect of Minnesota

OK. I won’t get on my hobby-horse about why the hell Franken isn’t in the senate seat he was elected to (according to media reports, after court rulings). Except to say that when Evil is defeated, it dies hard and agonizingly – and yes, I know that describing Coleman as “evil” is provocative, and I do so to expose my own frailty in following the path of The Christ.

But, except when my anger and frustration get the better of me, I try to glean some “inner truth” from the people and their words that I quote.

Boy, have I made several mistakes along the way! By which I mean “sins against Love”. Most of them came from one place: a desire to be important, coupled with a desire to gain power. You’d think that, trying to follow a Christ-like path, I would do better. Well, it’s a life-long struggle. Wisdom is always willing to be a Guide, but human longings are a devil of a thing to overcome.

Case in point? I once let it be known that a man I knew who was married was Gay. I was motivated by anger that Gay men who hide, who play around sexually, ruin their own and others lives. But I forgot about the wife and child. That was not loving.

We all make mistakes. We must learn from them, even if it is hard. We must repent of them and forgive ourselves. As to the fatal mistakes, they are out of our control. But there is always some possibility of good: others may learn from them.

Bottom line: mistakes are part of being human. But we can’t let our mistakes stunt our growth.

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The more one judges, the less one loves.

- Honore de Balzac, author, born on this date, 1799

Balzac said a lot of silly stuff about women, mostly, to my ears, derogatory. But I suppose for his time somewhat enlightened. One has to take things in context. I wish that people would remember this when it comes to the Bible. And remember that Jesus insisted on leaving the Holy Spirit of the Living God to guide future generations in the path of Love and Sense as the human context changed.

But I think Balsac got the connection about judging/judgmentalism and loving bang on. Does this prove there are some “relative absolutes” in the realm of the Wisdom of the World? Perhaps so! (I don’t believe in absolute absolutes!)

I don’t think that Balzac was talking about the kind of measured making of judicious judgment that comes with long thought and experience. He was talking about the kind of taking the measure of someone from the get go, based on ones own prejudices or preferences. As soon as we start doing that, the capacity to love decreases. Unfortunately, most of us often base our decision to love someone on whether they please us. Genuine love is the love that makes it possible to “love our enemies”, as Jesus cleverly asked people to do. Once we see others as like us, vast horizons for understanding and peace open up.

Let’s see how many times today we can catch ourselves at judging, and turn them into a loving response.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if
someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.

You can't separate peace from freedom because no one
can be at peace unless he has his freedom.

- Malcolm X, activist, born on this date, 1925

I believe the second statement to be true, from a theological perspective. And I know that I believe the truth of this statement on all kinds of theological, philosophical, and personal positions that I have been taught in my Life and accepted upon reflection. The reason that our World is in the state it is at this moment in history is primarily because Freedom is being denied to peoples. This deprivation has a long history. It is going to be a long “battle” for us. It isn’t getting better; it’s getting worse. And “religion” is playing a crucial factor. In my view, Religion in general has lost it’s heart. I am willing to think that many or even most individuals may not agree with their religious leaders; but religious hierarchies, those in power, have many of them joined with forces that are fundamentally contrary to Justice, Compassion, Love, Peace.

I am not surprised, therefore, by Malcolm X’s first quote. As a Gay man, I have often had dreams – both sleeping and waking – of becoming a guerilla fighter. In those dreams, I am constantly at battle with myself – the peaceful, loving, rational sided of me wars with the fury in me at being deprived of my freedom to be who I am, of being blindly, ignorantly denied my humanity. I am not at all surprised to hear Malcolm’s words. I can assure you that if I came across a group of people Gay-bashing Gayfolk with baseball bats and I had a gun, I would shoot as many as I could, without hesitation. This frightens me – but it makes me understand Malcolm X. And all people denied their humanity.

What I hope is that it makes the World understand the horrific destructive consequences of denying people their humanity and their human rights. And I absolutely believe that Jesus would be on the side of the denied.

Think about it. What kind of World do we want? If we want Peace, and Freedom, we know what to do folks. How to live our “religious” convictions.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, May 18, 2009

It should be one's sole endeavor to see
everything afresh and create it anew.

- Gustav Mahler, composer; he died on
this day, 1911, in Vienna

Now! When you read this quote, don’t you feel something rise up in your Spirit?! I did. I definitely felt as if a bit of what the Gospel calls “resurrection” surged into my Life. Oh, Life can get so BORING! Same old same old. In reality, every day is different; but we get into ruts, and we react in the same “rutty” way. Often we feel that we are just being swept along, that we have no power to control or change things. Our mind and our imagination go into “hold” mode. We just start “coping”, or responding. We forget that we have been offered the power to shape the Life around us.

What are you thinking when you awaken every morning? I hope it’s not “Oh God, how am I going to deal with this drudgery ahead for the next twelve hours?” Somewhere along the way – especially if you have had anything to do with a “spiritual community”, you should have learned that YOU SHAPE REALITY. There is absolutely NO reason to awake as a victim – of history, of your mind, of anxiety, of depression, or any number of other tearing-down things. If the Gospel has any message, one essential one is this: By the fact of the Divine indwelling you, you have the power to see “everything afresh and to create it anew”.

I have been dealing with “God” and with “Jesus” for many decades in my Life now. It took awhile, but I have learned (fitfully) that when I awake in the morning and am assaulted with victim-like feelings, THAT is the moment to say “Depart out of me”.

Remember: at the core of your Being is the power to greet each day with Mahler’s words: It is my sole endeavour to see everything afresh and create it anew.

Remembering this Truth, most of us would greet each day with a lot more enthusiasm and sense of our power – and aware of the amazing adventure both Life and our Being is.

Today, begin a different Life. Know that you can “see everything afresh and create it anew”. Take the bull by the proverbial horns!


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, May 15, 2009

There is one great truth on this planet:
 whoever you are, or
whatever it is that you do,
 when you really want something,

it's because that desire originated in the soul of the universe.

It's your mission on earth.

- Paulo Coelho, in “The Alchemist”

Well. This is either terribly profound, or it is crap. “One great truth”?? Please! But, like all such statements, it is “hyperbole”, and it requires meditation, genuine thought, to comprehend. Can one really say that the real desire to be a billionaire is something that “originated in the soul of the Universe”? I ….. ah….. don’t think so. Personally.

Remember when Jesus said “Anything you ask in my name will be given to you”?? Idiots took, and many still take this, literally, without pondering what Jesus really meant. All Scripture requires interpretation – or, a better phrase would be “discernment in the mind and spirit”. What does it mean, to ask “in Jesus’ name”?? Bottom line, it means to ask with one’s Being in complete synch with the Being of God. Now, how often, or how easy, do you think this will be? Even more to the point, how many people will do the work that is required for this synchronization to occur? And even more to the point, how many people will be able to get themselves out of the way for this linkage to happen?

So. Let go of nonsense. “Really wanting something” has to conform with the Mystery of God, with the Longing of “God”. Winning the lottery or escaping mortality won’t cut it. The only thing that will cut it is being willing to be shaped in the image of Love. When we ponder just what it really means to be shaped in the image of Divine Love, how many of us really want that? Giving up our Life for others? Loving our enemies? For how many of us did such a thing “originate in the soul of the universe”? For how many of us is it our “mission on earth”? Most of us are cowards, and it is why Jesus is so awesome as He is portrayed in the Gospels.

Become Love. Be consumed by Love. Radiate Love. “Die” for Love. Find Life in Love. Nothing can originate in the soul of the Universe that is shoddy or shallow. Only perfection in Love originates in the soul of the Universe. And when it does, it becomes your “mission on Earth”.

There is no point but to aim high. “Really want” to be consumed in the Fire of Love. Nothing else dwells in the “soul of the universe” or in your heart.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, May 14, 2009

Men want the same thing from their underwear
that they want from women: a little bit of support,
and a little bit of freedom.

- Jerry Seinfeld, whose program showed its last
episode on this date, 1998

25% of all Americans watched the last episode of “Seinfeld”. 78 Million people. Imagine. Clearly, something about that series grabbed us. I think (a propos of what I wrote yesterday about honesty) it had to do with honesty and reality. How refreshing.

Humour like Jerry’s is very hard to “use”. Good “humour” verges always on the borders of the “unacceptable”, at least from a hypocritical popular perspective. People like Jerry Seinfeld “speak the truth” – which most Americans know is the truth but which they can’t acknowledge as such because of the ingrained hypocrisy of the culture.

What do you think about Jerry’s comment? Is it accurate? Alas, I don’t think so – though that may be because I am a cynic when it comes to heterosexual men. I think that American men in general want their women to give them too much freedom, allowing them to disregard treating women as equal human beings. And I think that they expect from women – because they fail to see womens’ equality - too much support for their selfish, self-satisfying, self-aggrandizing, irresponsible, childish behaviour. Most men still regard women as “property, and still treat them as inferior and as “slaves”. I have seen this over 40 years in ministry. Most men don’t want “a little bit of support”. They want women to condone their every inhuman idiocy. And they don’t want a “little bit of freedom”. They want women to condone their “right” to do and have what they want at any cost. I find it disgusting. No wonder so many women I know long for lovers who are like Gay men!

I would like to be very very wrong in my perspective on heterosexual men in American culture. I really would. I would also like to be wrong about heterosexual men in other cultures – particularly all patriarchal cultures, and in religious cultures like the Muslims, Mormons, the Roman Catholic hierarchy, American Evangelicalism, British classism, and a vast number of other “institutions”. But I know I am right.

Jerry, with his humour, tried (I think) to point out our folly, our delusion, our self-deception. Men laughed at Jerry because they saw their own behaviour portrayed accurately and were able to deceive themselves that Jerry was “on their side”. Wrong. I loved Jerry Seinfeld because he exposed the utter stupidity of the heterosexual male failure to evolve spiritually.

I applaud every heterosexual man who looks at this portrayal and can honestly say, “I am NOT like that“– and prove it by their treatment of women!


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The world changes in direct proportion
to the number of people willing to be
honest about their lives.

- Armistead Maupin, author, born on this date, 1944

There is a story told about a spiritual director (or whatever the PC thing to call such a person today is), who met her “directee” for the first time. She asked him: “Have you ever thought of killing your father?” The man paused for several seconds and then said quietly, “Yes”. “Good”, said the Director; there’s hope for you.”

Point: in Life, we are not likely to get very far if we are not or “can’t be” honest. I believe this to be true of individuals and of every other level of social organization. And our problem? Much of Life, of relationship, is based on dishonesty, profound dishonesty, about the basics of being human. And despite what it often says about honesty as a moral good, Religion is often a major handmaid of Dishonesty. As is Politics.

We are taught to lie – or to repress the truth - in order to be “acceptable”, to be liked, to be safe, to be hireable, to “fit in”, etc. We are taught not to talk about sex (especially sexual orientation) and about countless other things that are part of being human because we have somehow come to the crazy delusion that this will make personal and social Life easier, more pleasant. Has it worked, do you think? I don’t. It has just created a World of shadow beings who interact with each other on the basis of lies from subtle to huge proportions. And the result is predictable: contempt.

Jesus is reported to have said, “The Truth will set you free”. I believe He is absolutely right. The human race is presently enslaved by dishonesty, and the results are all around us. It’s time for a change in the World - and it will change “in direct proportion to the number of people willing to be honest about their lives”.

Want to join?


Monday, May 11, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot
approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect.

- Jiddu Krishnamurti, mystic, born on thus date, 1895

Nothing like a good punch to the “gut” to get one thinking! And I have long thought that Pontius Pilate was a lot more intelligent than he is given credit for. Just three words put him on the map: “What is Truth?”

Pilate was responding to words that are reported to have been said by Jesus, in John’s Gospel: “I was born and entered the world so that I could witness to the truth. Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice." [The Message]

I understand what I think Krishnamurti was getting at. Truth is more vast than any religion, any sect, any doctrine. Which, to me, means that “Truth” cannot be contained, cannot be belittled, cannot be understood or claimed by any one group of people on any level. Or, to put it another way, any one group, religion, philosophy, etc who says that they hold the “Truth” just hasn’t understood the Mystery of “Truth”.

The Christian Church, as it developed over several centuries, tried to stake a claim on Truth. The Roman Catholic Church is still trying - and getting itself tied in knots these days as it, personified by the Pope, tries to be nice to other World religions while telling them that they are deluded. Many other Christian denominations are in the same boat – along with various expressions of Islam.

I look at Jesus not as the toy or mascot of Christianity, as they trot Him out to justify their arrogance as guardians of “Truth”. I understand Jesus as the ageless voice of the Mystery of Truth. Jesus was asking people to look at Him and deeply see that “Truth” cannot be understood apart from Loving. And that Love cannot be claimed by any path. To do so is utter human arrogance, and folly – this is what Krishnamurti understood. Any one “path” claiming Truth destroys the human community. Humanity seeking to love reveals Truth. No one owns the path - which is the meaning of the wisdom that Truth is a pathless land.

The message of Jesus that most resonates with me is that No One is Excluded. Our humanity is rooted in Loving, and it is the Path of us all. Perhaps the Message is that only when we discover this universal Path, when all “paths” merge into One, will we have found the Way to Ourselves.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, May 11, 2009

Life is 10 percent what you make it, and 90 percent how you take it.

- Irving Berlin (born Israel Baline), in Russia, 1888

Irving/Israel became an international star at age 23 with the publication of his song, "Alexander's Ragtime Band". Writing more than 1,500 songs plus musical comedies like “Annie Get Your Gun”, Berlin lived to be 101 years old. I met him once. A much admired and respected friend of mine lived on the superb Beekman Place in Manhattan, and I would stay with her on occasion. Her apartments looked out over the 59th Street Bridge – I would hum the song as I looked out over it to the North as I made my morning coffee. And I took a photo of it – it has disappeared, alas. But if I looked down from the 10th floor, I was looking down on Irving Berlin’s townhouse. One morning, I went out for my walk, and Irving Berlin was coming out of his house (in a wheelchair, pushed by a nurse). Being who I am, I nonchalantly walked across the street and said with a cheery smile, “Good Morning Mr. Berlin”. He waved his cane and smiled back. So goes the World. You never know what a kid from Verdun Quebec is going to be up to!

What does the 10% teach you – if you are attentive? It teaches you that you are NOT in control of most of your Life. This is a very important Rule – so pay attention. Life happens. It’s the way it IS. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. If you believe in “God”, you KNOW that “God” organized it this way because it is WAYS more fun! Growing up is learning to understand this Reality Rule.

What does the 90% teach you? Well, I have long quoted the old song: “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, Know when to walk away, and Know when to run”. (Kenny Rogers). This is true about Loving. Same principle applies.

What did Jesus understand when before Pilate? Hold ‘em. Before the Rich Young Ruler? Fold ‘em. Before those who might betray Him? Walk away. Run? Well …………

Life is an Art. Every now and then, we are offered the opportunity to shape our lives. These are rare moments. We are blessed if we have had fine teachers who have taught us to recognize such moments and to take hold of them by the throat and wrestle them into Being.

But 90% will be an opportunity to think on our feet! How blessed we will be if we have had teachers who have trained us to be flexible and supple in mind, body, heart, and spirit, so that we have the skills and the courage to “roll with the punches”. Oh, its good to have solid foundational principles. What we really need to learn is to adjust to Life’s “changes and chances of this mortal life” without losing touch with the Basics – especially Love.

Understanding the true nature and character of Love is the Bottom Line. Never let a day go by without honing that Art.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, May 8, 2009

If I could only remember that the days were,
not bricks to be laid row on row, to be built
into a solid house, where one might dwell in
safety and peace, but only food for the fires
of the heart.

- Edmund Wilson, author, born on this date, 1895

Being Gay, fifteen years of monasticism, some serious ill-health, and ministry in the Episcopal Church helped me to receive the gift of “food for the fires of the heart” that Wilson so elegantly and poetically refers to. And I am very grateful. That gift has deeply enhanced my life.

The four things I mention all gave me certain kinds of Freedom. Freedom to Be. Freedom not to Possess. Freedom from the Fear of Death to Live Fully. Freedom to find Self in Service.

It also taught me to appreciate Love, a much more dependable “solid house”, where one might dwell in safety and peace”, and to try and make whatever bricks I’ve lived in such a place. That process is an eternal endeavour! The Bible reports Jesus as saying that there is no one who has given up land, family, etc for the sake of the Gospel who does not receive back a hundred-fold – and I have experienced that Mystery!

Many things can be “laid row on row” to provide some dwelling place. But not days. Days so laid disintegrate. They are unsuitable material for walls and roofs. They are “food for the fires of the heart”, fleeting opportunities that offer themselves to us for Life.

We have a day today, and hopefully tomorrow and more. May we use it to fire our hearts!


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, May 7, 2009

Without tenderness, a man is uninteresting.

- Marlene Dietrich, actress, who died on May 6,
1992, age 90, in Paris

Is it possible for a man to live in a patriarchal society and be genuinely tender? I really wonder. One of the reasons I regret being brought up in the Judeo-Christian tradition is because the feminine has been eliminated from the concept of the Divine. And on top of it, the male figure is trapped in the stereotype of the warrior, the tyrant, the hunter, the dominator, whose strength lies in power. Does anyone actually remember, who is a Christian, that Jesus doesn’t fit any of those categories???

I can’t tell you the number of women friends I have who deeply wish they could have Gay men best friends, or be married to men who had the characteristics of Gay men!!! Most of the sensible women I know are sick of having to deal with straight men who are either infantile or whose sense of masculinity is so warped that they have no connection with their feminine characteristics – among which is authentic tenderness – as opposed to a false tenderness that some men can muster when dealing with an “inferior” instead of an equal being. Sad situation for women – but even worse for the men.

I am also amazed at the number of heterosexual women I know who are seemingly willing to put up with the kind of men they marry! It does not surprise me that even after being married to them and having kids and living together for decades, they leave them. Having a semi-safe environment to raise a family can be helpful, but after that many women are looking for a different kind of companion – and many don’t find such a companion in the men they married. Why am I not surprised that marriage is chosen by less and less people in our culture? Modern women know what they may be in for, and modern men know they aren’t going to get a slave.

If we weren’t so intent in portraying “God” as a male, we would have a much better role model! I really hope that the Christian Church can take a lead in this, in changing the concept of the Divine. I suspect I am whistling in the wind – but I am ever hopeful!

Our bishop (a woman in her 40s) apparently said that she would like to concentrate on outreach to straight men. If she’s thinking along the lines I’m thinking, maybe she has a point!


p.s. Marlene also said:

If there is a supreme being, he's crazy. (I can imagine what she was thinking.)

It's the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter. (She’s right on!)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, May 6, 2009

 Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only
putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.

Let your life lightly dance on the edges of
Time like dew on the tip of a leaf.

- Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel laureate in Literature, born on this day, 1861

Why are there images in almost every religion about The Beyond - about what “happens” after we die? Why is it that human beings can’t bear the thought that there is nothing beyond the Time when we have “lightly dance(d) on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of the leaf”? Every religion has a description of that “time beyond” (except perhaps classical Judaism). But really, no one really knows what might be coming next. We have just created possibilities, pictures, visions of what it might be like. Tagore created a beautiful word image of the possibility of Life Beyond - a “not extinguishing the light” ….. a “putting out the lamp because the dawn has come”. Utterly, utterly, exquisitely charming, uplifting, encouraging.

I know why we humans have these images. We want to give ourselves wings to help us soar in and through and yes, above our little time on the “tip of a leaf”. We give ourselves a way of not being pulled down, of not being held back from a full living of this Mystery that we consciously inhabit NOW. This is one of the glories of being Human - we grasp the infinite possibilities of our four score years and ten! We understand mortality – and we seek the power to cram every possibility into those years.

Tagore has, I think, spoken Wisdom. The Past is gone and the Future is Unknown. We have Today in which to live – to “dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of the leaf”. It is said that the greatest gift given by the Christ is freedom from the fear of the power of Sin and Death. Were this gift not offered, we might easily huddle in paralysis, “freaked out” and traumatized. But simply knowing, metaphorically, that a mansion and a new Life awaits us beyond the grave, we are liberated to live the NOW. To give it all we can, uninhibited by any “drag” whatsoever – especially the “drag” of having to avoid mistakes.

Knowing there is a “dawn to come” isn’t meant to stifle us, to make us followers of petty rules. It is meant to help us throw off all chains and to live this earthly Life with abandon. What happens when we fall off the tip of the leaf is, the Gospel tells us, not ours to worry about.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, May 5, 2009

i. Boredom is the root of all evil - the despairing refusal to be oneself.

ii. Don't forget to love yourself.

iii. Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good.

iv. Life must be understood backwards; but... it must be lived forward.

v. Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself.

vi. Love is all, it gives all, and it takes all.

vii. Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.

- Soren Kierkegaard, philosopher, theologian,
born on this date, 1813 (He was only 42 when he died.)

Well, as sometimes happens, there are so many good things that I just can’t choose one! So here are a few things to meditate on, which will certainly give you more than for one day! And of course I can’t resist a few comments.

i. I have never been bored. Not that I can recall. There is always something to do – including Nothing! As to my life, well, I’ve always tried, or been “driven”, to be my own peculiar Self. And I haven’t regretted it. The only thing that slightly worries me is that I haven’t been bold enough!
ii. Yes yes! If we can’t love ourselves, the rest of trying to love will somehow get tragically twisted. The psyche can’t tolerate self-loathing; it will always project it out onto others.
iii. Dennis often asks me, “How was your day? What did you do today”. I often happily answer (now that I am retired) “Nothing!” And I have found that all that puritan crap about “idle hands” is a lot of hooey. I have more time now to ponder doing “good” – and sometimes doing it!
iv. Regret. As someone once said, the most useless of feelings. Acknowledge the past, learn from it - but push on with Life!
v. Love – including the Christian God who is defined as “Love” - can force nothing. Love may, though, give another the courage to change.
vi. Yep.
vii. I have preached this for decades. (And here I thought I was being original!) All this beseeching God, which often is asking “God” not to BE “God”!, is useless. Along with beseeching God to change the nature of Reality, or the Divine nature, etc. The primary function of prayer is indeed to change us. And it has to be our choice to change. God is patient.

May you have an unbored, Self-fulfilling, idle, unregretful, loving, self-changing day!


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, May 4, 2009

 I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung,
and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me,
and the people I have known.

- Pete Seeger, folksinger, born on May 3, 1919

Well, I am a day late. But who could ignore the 90th birthday of Pete Seeger!!!! I met Pete Seeger everywhere! The Hudson River. Berkeley CA. Prison in DC. I went sailing on the Clearwater, awed by his commitment to preserving the beauty of America. Let me tell you: it is a blessing and a joy to know of such a man and to have participated with him in bringing a spotlight of Truth and Justice and Compassion and Peace and non-racism to our land.

We Americans go through periods of Failure. Times when our Integrity collapses. The last 8 years have been torturous (in my view) under the Bush administration. And through it all, Pete Seeger has gone on being full of Integrity. He was not about to kowtow to the McCarthy gangsters! How is it that times come around in our land where we can be so alienated from the high principles which motivated the founders of our nation? I have to admit: as much as I am understanding of the vicissitudes of human nature, I often collapse in either fury or bewilderment at the way human beings (including myself at times) behave! But, the same is true about my feelings about American Christians: how can we stray so far from the essential clarity of the Gospel and of the Christ, when we have the witness of the Good Shepherd who was willing to Die for the Sheep?

My point?? Look at Jesus. He absolutely refused to compromise on many levels – because it would have implied that “God” was willing to compromise with Injustice, with Greed, with the Will to Power, with Evil. The amazing thing about the Christian Gospel is that it has survived for over 2000 years, transcending all of the Church’s lapses into Unlovingness. If anything indicates that the “God of Love” is somehow at work” in the Scriptures, this to me is it.

Christian friends, you KNOW what the Gospel requires! See and acknowledge the Divine Christ within you! Become truly one of His disciples. Open your hearts to be transformed. Begin to love with the radicality with which the Christ responded to the diminishment of Creation and Humanity. Understand what it means to “lay down ones Life for the sheep”. It has nothing to do with loosing your life; it has to do with gaining it.

The choice is ours. Like Pete Seeger, refuse to compromise with anything that diminishes the integrity and the value of every human being, and the Earth.