Monday, September 28, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It is no good to try to stop knowledge from going
forward. Ignorance is never better than knowledge.

- Enrico Fermi, physicist, born on this date, 1901;
he died at the young age of 53.

Well, God Forbid that I should be accused of belabouring any subject. I don’t think I do, especially the subject of homosexuality. However. The refusal of many folk to accept the fact that homosexual people do not “choose” their sexual orientation and thus their natural behaviour is, for me, the quintessential example of deliberate choice of Ignorance writ large. Choosing Ignorance is, for me, the quintessential example of Human fear, pettiness, delusion, and willful choice of Infantilism. There is only one thing worse, in my mind – and that is people blaming “God” for their Ignorance.

The thing that comes, for me, next closest on the Ignorance Scale is chosen Ignorance about the Mystery we call “God”. (Maybe it should be first on the List!?) Fermi reminds us that our “knowledge” of God must – if we are honest human beings – go “forward”. Millenia after the founders of the “great” religions that persist today, vast numbers of adherents live only to eviscerate their power and teachings. By their enslavement to Literalism. C.S. Lewis was correct that “Satan” (the anthropomorphic personification of Evil) delights in our human delight of Ignorance. People who live in uni-dimensional Worlds are – to put it in common political parlance – disciples of Bushitism.

Well, enough of my political rant. Jesus is reported to have said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”. We’ve been waiting far too long, but the Time “has come”, is indeed always present, to stop preventing “knowledge from going forward”. About God especially. All of us have a far too limited understanding about the vast Mystery of God. It’s time for humility. Time to lift our gaze in amazement and desire to the 99% of “God” that has yet to be revealed. Time to abandon the burden of our arrogance and rise on the wings of Wonder.

We know so little. About ourselves. About the World. About “God”. How I would love to live in a Human Community born anew to exploring the deep Mystery of Life!


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, Sept 28, 2009

God has been pleased to prescribe limits to his
power and to work out his ends within these limits.

-William S. Paley, head of CBS for over 50 years,
born on this date, 1901

And we human beings, who have invented God in the image we desire, grant “Him” ways to wiggle out of the Almightiness we somehow seem to want “Him” to have. We Episcopalians (and most other Christians) have countless prayers that begin “Almighty God”. Yet we order our lives to deal with the fact that God seems not to choose to wield that Almightiness. We seem to need to believe that God can do anything (S)he wishes, including reversing natural processes – so much so that we are willing to grant God the inscrutable wisdom to ignore human suffering and all manner of Evil, and to assume that there is some Plan, unknown to us but assumed benign in our ultimate favour, that will work Itself out to our benefit in some unknown future. We hold to this self-deception despite millennia of evidence to the contrary.

I have pondered this “mystery” for many decades now. I continue to be amazed at our capacity for making excuses for God. There must be some powerfully deep-rooted need that we are meeting. Alas, it seems not to include our willingness to assume responsibility for our own lives and to recognize the Christ-nature within us. My question is, Do we have some deep-rooted need to have some escape route for getting ourselves off the hook for the messes we make of our lives, or to grant God a pardon for not living up to our expectations of an “almighty god” who could in fact make our lives easier but chooses not to?

I think Mr. Paley is being kind and I think he is correct theologically. The limits within which God chooses to “work out his ends” is the complex humanity of each of us. Each human being is defined by the Christ-nature at our heart and core. In some that Christ-nature is vibrant, in some dim and weak. When it is strong, as within my friend Natalie who is facing her extensive cancer with a deep connection with the Christ-Within, "Might” is radiantly evident. For others, who are unable to tap into that Christ-Nature, Life goes awry.

In the Christian Myth, just as God chose to grant, in trust and submission, utter Freedom to Jesus to pursue His path, so God does with each of us, who are “heirs with Christ” of God’s gift of Life. Bottom line: we must choose our Path.

God’s “might” is shown in God’s servanthood to our Freedom. What greater love is there than this??


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Sept 25, 2009

Nobody sees a flower - really - it is so small
it takes time - we haven't time - and to see
takes time, like to have a friend takes time.

- Georgia O’Keefe, artist

A dear friend and former parishioner of mine died a couple of weeks ago. His name was Jose Orraca. He was a revered conservationist of photographs and paper, internationally known. He passed through Roman Catholicism, and the Baptist religion, and finally “discovered” the Episcopal Church. He delighted in it, and it was a joy to have him among us.

Early on, Jose lived in the company of Georgia O’Keefe in New Mexico, and knew, and was I believe the trustee of the photographs of, the photographer Alfred Steiglitz, O’Keefe’s lover. There was a lovely photograph he took of Georgia and Alfred on the wall of his studio. Jose died a man still with lots to discover about himself. And he maintained a childlike aspect until his death. I’m glad to have known him.

“We haven’t time.” Sadly true in our culture today. And it is dehumanizing us. Our educational system is focused on producing products in support of consumerism. Developing the whole person has been abandoned. With the result (as a report on PBS about the desperately poor health of so many American children said) that American children are becoming inactive, narrowly educated health problems.

Georgia’s huge flowers helped us really to see flowers, to pay attention to Life. Jose’s restored historical photographs did the same. I think we need to begin another revolution. One that will help us to see the whole human being, to see what is needed to grow and nurture each human person. A revolution that will give us back the time we need to honour human relationships and relearn the art of friendship.

I will think often of Jose’s beautiful restored pictures, reminding me to look deeply and see deep into the human spirit.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Sept 23, 2009

Always get married in the morning. That way if it
doesn't work out, you haven't wasted the whole day.

- Mickey Rooney, actor, born on this date, 1920

Mickey was married eight times, and is apparently still alive at age 89 and married to the woman he wed in 1978. As I often say, and my friend Margaret often quotes me (she says), “Aren’t people amazing!” Apparently he and Judy Garland had the sense not to get married – to each other.

I want to talk about ice cube trays. I was with Dennis the other day in Santa Barbara. We stopped there on our way up from LAX, having arrived back from Wisconsin. Santa Barbara is what I would call “slummy chic” – i.e., let’s not look TOO posh! Posh is “lower class”. Anyway, we went into Sur La Table – a favourite place since Dennis is a devoted chef – and I am a devoted gadget freak (within means – I never spend more than my budget - those seeking Simplicity of Life please take note). Up until this time, we have been using the ice cube trays that were in the Fridge that was in the house when we bought it. They are annoying. But. SLT had different ice cube trays! They make perfectly square cubes (which appeals to my tidy brain), and they are made of some material to which frozen ice cubes do not stick! You simply press them from the bottom and they slide effortlessly out. Now, this is excellent low-tech tech!

Which leads me to the issue of marriage. Being married in heart and spirit to Dennis, I have learned certain things, things that have been very helpful to Life. I have learned not to waste “the whole day”. On the wall next to where I sit at my laptop there is taped a Buddhist quote I saw recently. It says “Empty your bowl of yesterday’s rice.” Very salient advice! Marriage has taught me to learn quickly – which I hope Mickey learned after 8 tries. One must learn how to process things. And in that, learn not to make proverbial mountains out of proverbial molehills. “Love” is the Quest. It is critically important not to let one’s defensive pettiness take over. Wasting the whole day, metaphorically speaking, is immature. We need to be processing every minute, taking stock of what’s going on, and quickly disposing of the things that corrupt the great adventure of Marriage. Being married to Dennis has taught me to “process”: Examine, See those things that are destructive because pandering to Ego treachery, Let go.

“Mornings” are a metaphor for paying attention. “The rest of the day” is a metaphor for being set free to deep one’s Humanity.

No time that can be spent in deepening truth and love should be wasted.

We all need to learn to let go at Dawn of the Ego’s hurts, so that we are free to grow into the wonder of being Human.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, September 22, 2009

You can be great only if it is your destiny.

Destiny has a lot to do with it, but so do you.
You have to persevere, you have to insist.

- Andrea Bocelli, singer, born on this date, 1958

Bocelli definitely has a charisma. I have a delightful friend who bought a little flat in Lucca. She and friends chased Bocelli around Italy for months, entranced with his voice and personality – and of course, his concerts were in glorious Italian settings! It charms me. What a delightful way of enjoying Life!

I have thought about “destiny”. The popular notion of it is that something else is directing it. I reject this notion completely – especially if it is thought that “God” directs it in disregard of human freedom. Such a “God” is only a tyrant. No such “God” exists except in the mind of tyrants.

“Destiny” is the choice of every human being. I do believe that there is a Common Destiny. To put it in a Christian context, we are all “destined” to become the God we Imagine and embrace: unconditionally loving, compassionate, gentle, kind, non-coercive yet speaking the truth in love, non-possessive, liberating, able to understand that self-love is synonymous with self-giving for others. Nothing satisfies our longing for Self than pouring our love out for others. We each have a Destiny – and it is solely in our own hands. As Bocelli says, “You have to persevere, you have to insist”. It is in this perseverance and insistence that our uniqueness shines.

The only Destiny you confront is to be your true Self. If you fail, no one else is to blame.

Greatness as a person is a Mystery. It is illuminated by Jesus, who said to His disciples, “Anyone who wants to be great must be the least of all and the servant of all”. You have to have chosen the path of servanthood. No one can force it on you. You have to have chosen it yourself.

It IS our destiny to be great. Think what the World would be like if we all understood the true path to greatness and lived our days passionately living its character!

We do know it – many of us. What we need is each other to “bear each others burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”.

Together, we can change the World.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, September 21, 2009

“Chew quietly your sweet sugarcane God-Love, and stay playfully childish.
Your face will turn rosy with illumination like the redbud flowers.”

- Rumi , of course

Apparently, the ancient Mayan calendar is “predicting” that on Dec 21, 2012, one of two things will happen. Either the World will come to an end, or, a profound transformation will take place. (Want a little taste of all this? Go to

With the fact in mind that “end of the World” has been “predicted” countless times and we are still here (If there is any sign of God’s humour, this is It!), I am rooting for the Great Transformation!!

Silly, I know. Take a glance back at Humanity over the last several thousand years. There have been minor episodes of what perhaps could be called Transformation. Usually fairly localized. Not long-lasting. Sigh. We human beings are a complicated lot. Capable of such superb majesty, and such venal ugliness.

I have to admit, though, that there is a little part of me that thinks an “End” might be a helpful thing. Having experienced several hard drive collapses, I have found that “starting over from scratch” can be a wonderfully cleansing experience, very freeing. And, since I am fully content with the reality of my mortality, I have no worries about an “End” – except for the occasional pang of fear about pain.

So, I choose to “believe” in the possibility of a cosmic flash of Insight. And to be an HBWBITPOCI – a Human Being who believes in the Possibility of Cosmic Insight. And to live accordingly. I intend to deepen my sense of human fear and sadness, to work at deepening my compassion for the plight of my fellow human beings, to cast off all my prejudices, and to work at valuing the dignity of every human being.

How far I will get with this I have no idea. But, sounds like a plan.

Care to join me?


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Sept 9, 2009

Black and orange butterfly -
Flying joyously.
Wings like a nun's hands:
First folded in prayer,
Then open in offering.

Even the angry and insane leave the butterfly alone.
Why can we not learn to honor the innocence in one
another? Maybe we spend too much time dwelling on
the ugly. In the name of practicality or realism, we
think about strategy, defense, territory, gain, and ad-
vantage. We are too late to be like the butterfly. But at
least we can honor it, and move as closely to its simple

- Taoist thought

A couple of weeks after I was ordained priest, I went to Nicaragua. I spent several months centered in Tasbapauni, from which I went out to celebrate the Eucharist and other sacraments at several other points. I have often said that it was like living in a National Geographic article!

Bodily functions in Tasbapauni were often attended to on the … ah … beach. Actually, it was a fascinating bit of cultural construction: there could have been twenty people on the beach, but for all intents and purposes, you were alone. Amazing how the corporate mind works!

Anyway, one morning I was sitting there when I noted out of the corner of my left eye a huge dark cloud coming down the coast in an otherwise clear sunny sky. As I watched, an enormous flock of millions of Monarch butterflies sailed soundlessly across my vision and on their way south. It was a “Nirvana” moment. And I would no more have thought of harming them than myself.

Today, over 35 years later, I am reminded again: Strive to honour all Life.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Sept 8, 2009

Be self-sufficient but not isolated.
When the king of China closed the borders,
Centuries of stagnation and decadence began.

- Deng Ming-Dao (Taoist)

Well, you’re safe. You can’t do it anyway. “Close the borders” that is. We tend to think we can – but we’d have to be dead – and even then there is no guarantee! We underestimate the Mind; we underestimate the Cosmic Unconscious; we underestimate our Self; we underestimate the mystery we call Life.

It is, as the Buddha and Jesus and others say, always the Middle Way. Each of us needs an inner structure to survive. Life is full of events that challenge our basic biological survival, let alone emotional or psychic. Support can be elusive, despite the simple fact that we are surrounded by other life. Some self-sufficiency is simply part of being a healthy human being.

But isolation is like being in a depressed gene pool. Eventually, things begin to break down. Change and variety are a given of healthy Life on all levels. My friend Nancy Roth+ said in her sermon last week that Jesus changed and learned as Life confronted Him, in this case by the challenge of the “Syrophoenecian Woman” figure. “Open up, Open up!” she was saying. “Get a bigger vision!” He did.

Another thing is helpful in this balancing of self-sufficiency and isolation, I find. Blur the lines between Death and Life. The Middle Way incorporates them both.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, Sept 7, 2009

The past cannot be cured.

- Elizabeth I, Queen of England,
born on this date, 1533

We have perhaps been taught that it can. I don’t think so. If by “cured” is meant “undone” or “dismissed”. I believe the Buddha to be right – i.e., this is a principle of Life which I think I accept as true. “Karma”, that is, the results and consequences of our thoughts and actions will and must “come round”. The Past can’t be undone. We can only deal with how it has changed the World and with what comes our way, or what comes others’ way by our choices. The Christian principle known as “redemption” simply means that we human beings are not caught in some trap, despite our choices, which limit our making new choices. Christians believe that this freedom is a “gift from God”. Nothing is preordained.

The Past can only be learned from ….. or not. It goes without saying that we human beings have not been very good at learning from the Past. We live with the folly of our refusal to change and learn every day ….. and we have for millennia. It is, to my mind, particularly glaring in our present World situation.

Another thing I accept: “God” is not going to countermand our Karma, nor our freedom or our choice to reject free choice. The best that the Gospel has to offer is that God unconditionally loves and companions us, presumably hoping that the energy of Divine Love will influence our choices for the Future. I remain in awe of God’s optimism!

These days, I am feeling the strong call to step further up to my humanity. No more blaming human misery and suffering on God, or permitting others to hold this position without challenge – though I have felt this for quite a long time now in my Life.

Time to grow up. Or the Past rules. I do not believe this to be Humanity’s lot.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, Sept 5, 2009

Jesus [is approached by a Syrophoenician woman]. She begged him to cast the
demon out of her daughter. He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it
is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." But she answered
him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." Then he said
to her, "For saying that, you may go-- the demon has left your daughter." So she
went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

- The Gospel called “Mark”, chapter 7 [Prop 18B, RCL]

We human beings are stuffed with contra-human puss. (Oooh, strong word, sorry!). It’s part of being human. But the best-thinking of us over the millennia have detected a core, a “heart”, a “something” which defines Highest Human Essence. It all comes from ourselves – that’s the amazing wonder of being who we are. [Some would say that “God” puts it there; it’s the same thing.] And each one of us – if we are fortunate enough to have been brought up in a setting that eschews Ignorance – is trained in the capacity and flexibility to make the choices that “make us fully human”.

We all have to embrace and come to love the metaphorical Syrophoenician Within. That part of us which thinks that we are not worthy of knowing how to be Whole. The Christ, Who represents the purpose of the Universe, wants us all to come to this Wholeness. The Christ of the Bible is always confronting that part of us that quails to reach out for our Wholeness.

So, how charming and attractive is this Syrophoenician rebel within us that we see in Mark today. We have to root for her! Because she is our “best self”. That SW refuses to be dismissed! Even when challenged by the Creator, she comes back with a quick and smart retort! Oh no! I won’t let anything stand in the way of receiving the blessings I need to become Whole.

The Smiling One within us can only say one thing – and delightedly so. “The demon has left you; Grow in Love.”


Friday, September 4, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Sept 4, 2009

Life is One and Indivisible.

- The Buddha

3:56 AM

It’s 3:56 AM.
Well ….. not actually;
Dennis keeps the clock about a half hour ahead.
Part of some mystery, I assume,
which I can let be.
Anyway – metaphorically speaking,

I am awake. But I slept,
after several restless nights of illness.
For an hour I lay there,
the bed was perfect, firm, holding;
except for the low hum of traffic
on route 101 and the ticking of the clocks
it was stillness, quiet.
The Pacific breeze from Guadalupe
had begun to drop softly on the bed
through the open window.
Minute by minute, my body merged
with it all – and nothing hurt!
The hour went by. I was enfolded.

The Buddha says that Life is One
and Indivisible.
It is the groundstone of His thought.
We human beings imagine these great things;
it is up to us to choose our Path.

I knew the One and Indivisible
for an hour, at 3:56 AM.
Maybe the Blessed One has something!