Friday, October 30, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Oct 31, 2009
[ La Dia de los Muertos ]

Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.

- Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India.
She was assassinated on this date, 1984,
by trusted Sikh bodyguards.

You never know, do you. The World is full of Politics, Disgruntled People, Fanaticism, Tribalism, Grudges, Religion, etc. One chooses one’s friends, one’s allies, etc - but you never know what hides in their hearts, what motivates their later actions. Can you imagine being a “suicide bomber”? I can’t.

I think Mrs. Gandhi is insightful. As I look back over my own Life, I have “known” by what I was taught as a Christian and as a monk and as a priest that Forgiveness is critical first in order to free oneself from the power of anger or hate, to have the gate opened to Love and to “redemption”. But it IS hard! Christianity tries to provide a path to that freedom, through “confession and absolution” – but most of us are not “brave”. We draw back from confronting our own willingness to harbour hateful or angry thoughts/behaviour. We reject the insight of dear friends or spiritual advisors. We continue to think that, if we are “revealed” as people subject to “the doers of sin and death”, we are somehow diminished.


We all must learn to look at ourselves with unflinching honesty. It is the only path to Freedom; the only path to growth and peace and the deepening of our Humanity.

Time to be Brave.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Oct 29, 2009

"There may be a recession in stock prices, but not
anything in the nature of a crash."
- Irving Fisher,
leading U.S. economist , New York Times, Sept. 5, 1929

- The stock market crash happened on Oct 29, 1929


But it happens, despite the confidence, the bravado, the “hope” of people. Crash.

To survive crashes of whatever sort, we have to have a strong inner Life. Resilience. Adaptability. St. Paul famously said that he had lived in every sort of situation, and was able to manage it. I don’t think I could manage Darfur, or double leg-amputation, or blindness. (I told my colorectal surgeon that I could NOT manage with a colostomy bag over festering fissures that never healed; he said the only thing I would accept. “I can fix it.”) We need to know our limits to the quality of Life, or anyway ….. I do!

Life throws a lot of things at us. Most religion is not helpful to a lot of people because most religions lie to us. They will tell us anything to get us to support them ….. but they often then will not tell us the truth. And when the rubber hits the road, we are without resources.

I think about my “inner path” a lot. I’ve been revising it quite a bit lately. Fine-tuning it. I smile when someone tells me that the World is going to be OK, or that I will survive to 80. I now have a path and a “God” that brings me serenity and peace and courage to face Reality.

What more does one need?


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Oct 28, 2009

Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our
lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life
to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say.
Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only
so many tomorrows.

- Paul VI, bishop of Rome, who, on this date, 1965,
issued a decree absolving Jews of collective guilt for
the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

What strange, amazing creatures we human beings are, regardless of the “status” we have achieved in Life! Paul VI is reported to have once said: “Failing to be there when a man wants her is a woman's greatest sin, except to be there when he doesn't want her.” Even giving him the benefit of the doubt, this is in my opinion a pretty stupid thing to say theologically if one is supposed to be centered in Gospel and not in one’s limited social culture. This is a huge problem with Religion: so often religious rules do not reflect their core principles or “founders”, but the manipulation of human beings with power in that Religion. The Hadith in Islam is a good example – a collection of sayings not in the Qur’an which various people “remember” the Prophet saying, and then used to control people.

Paul VI is also reported as saying: “No more war! Never again war! If you wish to be brothers, drop your weapons.” And yet, what has the papacy really done to live that truth over the millennia? Very little.

And as to issuing a decree “absolving Jews of collective guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ” – if he was attempting to eradicate the hate that his Church had shown and engendered falsely against the Jews, he might have just said plainly they were wrong. But if he was saying that the Jews were indeed collectively to blame for the death of Jesus Christ and were now being magnanimously “forgiven”, he deserves to be shamed for his ignorance and arrogance.

However, we humans are a mystery. We have so many contradictory facets! I agree wholeheartedly with Paul’s words about being told we are dying right at the beginning of our lives. So much about Life and society and religion tends not to support Life and the living of it. But certainly the Gospel is all about Life and not “death”. Paul is right: anything that reminds us that Life is fleeting, that there are only so many tomorrows, that we should do what we want to do now, is on the proverbial money.

“There are only so many tomorrows.” Love extravagantly, now.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, October 26, 2009

My advisers built a wall between myself
and my people. I didn't realize what was
happening. When I woke up, I had lost
my people.

- Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, tyrant (and
unfortunately not the last), of Iran, born on
this day, 1919

The Gospel of Jesus is about Reality. An example? Jesus confronting the apostle Peter with those chilling words, “Get behind me Satan!”. IMHO, the present and all popes of the Latin church, which claims to be founded by Peter, would do well to meditate on this moment. They should awake every morning hearing those words of the Christ in their ears. As should ALL faiths and religions as they reflect on their “founders” teaching. Jesus was constantly confronting His followers with their misguided understanding of His Message. It hasn’t changed. If Jesus were here today, He would be having the same problems with us.

My assessment of Shah Pahlavi as a tyrant may sound harsh – but I think it is accurate. It is, IMHO, true of all the subsequent “rulers” of Iran, and of many present World “rulers”, including our own in the USA.

I do not accept the Shah’s words as accurate. They are delusional. He chose to live in a fantasy World. He was ignorant and deliberately in denial, as many World “leaders” are, of his inner self and motives and reality. Somewhere deep inside, he knew that he was a tyrant, torturing his people, rejecting of their humanity, living in indecent luxury while most of his people suffered horribly. George Bush did the same thing as he deprived us of our constitutional rights. All World “leaders” run the risk of being so subverted. Power corrupts. I was not moved by the interview with the Shah’s wife, living in luxury in New York. She too was delusional and self-justifying.

Shah Pahlavi and so many others like him in power delude themselves. They put the blame – seen in these words of the Shah – on others for their cruelty, their inhumanity, their lust for power and riches, their renunciation of their humanity, their total lack of empathy for the suffering of others. Personally I don’t believe in Hell – but I do often hope that Justice will ultimately be done.

Somewhere, I hope that the Shah “woke up” and was forced to confront the consequences of his own choices, his own responsibility for suffering and deprivation. The same with George Bush and Robert Mugabe and Bill Clinton and various popes and other religious leaders and Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas and right-wing American “Christians” and Islamic and all religious militants and all others who should be in a position of concern for the well-being of others.

Such people lie to themselves. It’s the only way they can live with themselves. Jesus, and Christianity at its best, boldly confronts such lying and self-deception: “Get behind me Satan!”

None of us should be complicit in such self-delusion. In such callous cruelty. In such disregard for our brothers and sisters. It’s time to examine our lives. To look at the sometimes subtle ways in which we participate in the self-delusion and the karmic infliction of suffering of others.

I believe that such self-truth will amaze us (and I include myself in this) with the ecstasy of the discovery of our unity with the God of Love.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Oct 23, 2009

If variety is the spice of life, marriage
is the big can of leftover Spam.

- Johnny Carson, entertainer, born
on this date, 1925

First, let me confess that I rather like Spam. But: that has nothing to do with this metaphor. Do I think that “marriage” is a “good thing”? In the modern understanding, or as it works out practically: NO!

Why is Marriage such a miserable failure at the moment?

In a word: Male ignorance. Male testosterone. Male arrogance. Male childishness. Male mental inability to transcend their gonads. I am speaking about most of the World, and about most religions. If there are any cultures or communities where none of the above is in play, I would like you to tell me.

Of course: Gay men are exempt. We are paragons!

“Marriage” needs rethinking. From my point of view, any two people (and let’s not get silly here: we’re not talking about nutty relationships, etc) should be able to get married for the legal benefits – though I question the helpfulness of the “state” meddling in this business. But I am not interested in those aspects – except for equality under the law, which should be de rigeur for both straight and Gay folk. But: I AM interested in marriage which makes real people! Equal people. Loving people. Caring people.

Marriage has been corrupted in western culture. Most religion has betrayed Marriage. It has fallen victim to male (false) superiority and , strangely, male sense of inferiority. Fallen victim to control and dominance issues.

Though Marriage is not everyone’s calling and not everyone’s path to a more beautiful Humanity, “Marriage” can make those called to it more beautiful, more caring, more understanding, more loving. Primarily because we learn to displace our own Ego from the position of Tyrant to the position of Lover.

If “marriage” near you doesn’t make these things possible, work to make it so! It is good for our own soul and the World’s Soul.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Oct 22, 2009

My advice to people today is as follows: if you take the game
of life seriously, if you take your nervous system seriously, if
you take your sense organs seriously, if you take the energy
process seriously, you must turn on, tune in, and drop out.

Learning how to operate a soul figures to take time.

Science is all metaphor.

- Dr. Timothy F. Leary, great character; he was born on
this date, 1920

Have I told you this before?? That Leary (and some of his entourage) lived near me, in Millbrook NY (Very fancy, and elegant, and “old money” – and they didn’t like him being there!) The locals still relate with mini-shock amusing stories of Leary and his friends wandering naked (presumably stoned) along the road into town, being gathered up and taken home by the gendarmerie!! (Sounds fun to me!)

The first quote is one of Leary’s most famous. Very 60’s. I agree with him for this our own time. The question is: “Turn on” with what? “Tune in” to what? “Drop out” of what – and if it’s our culture, well …..

I would say: “Turn on” with the “drug” of respecting all people. “Tune in” to others’ fear and despair. “Drop out” of the consumerist mindset. Our Spirit will flourish.

“Soul” is the Deepest Essence of being Human and Oneself. Is it surprising that a great deal of our time and energy should go into this work? Do you “know” your “soul”? Start there.

Not only is Science all metaphor. And it is. It is also a Sacrament – and “Sacrament” and “Myth” are the same thing. They point to something deeper – theologically, philosophically, emotionally. “Science” is a metaphor for “Wonder”. A metaphor for being thunderstruck at the Mystery of Life.

Let’s Turn on, Tune in, Drop out of EVERYTHING that demeans Life and Love and Justice and Tenderness and Respect and Equality. Let’s live from the “Soul” – the “eye” within us that sees Eternity and that knows what’s really worth living out of.

And let’s recall: take one step at a time, and be satisfied with small advances! Human beings are an imperfect lot!


Monday, October 19, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Oct 20, 2009

I don't think there are any men who are faithful to their wives.

- First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. On this date, 1968,
she married Greek millionaire Aristotle Onassis

Jackie also said: “The first time you marry for love, the second for money, and the third for companionship.” Onassis was #2. Money. But one can’t help wonder why. Both the Bouviers (I think) and the Kennedys had plenty of money. As I often say: “Aren’t people amazing!” My delightful friend Margaret Wetmore says she often quotes me on that; I appreciate her flattery, as I respect her.

Did Jackie make her comment in bitterness? Or, with a sigh of acceptance? I have been thinking about marriage in our culture. It’s an extremely complicated issue! There are millions of books about it. I think that Jackie and Aristotle’s marriage was the second for each. Which may mean that it wasn’t for Companionship. Too bad.

I think that, when anyone considers marrying anyone (spiritually speaking; forget the legal aspects), we should already be thinking about Stage Three: Companionship. People who get married late in Life do, I think. I did. A companionship that will outlive #1 and #2. A Biblical phrase comes to mind (St. Paul?): “All these things shall pass away; only three things last, Faith, Hope, and Love, and the greatest is Love.” Companionship is about two minds and bodies walking together, each serving the other, each being a vehicle by which the “other” is transported to their destiny and to the fullness of their unique being. A Companion is one who values that more than their own Journey – only to discover that the Wisdom is true, as the Christ expressed it: one’s greatness and Self is found in serving the destiny of the Other.

I think that people who are not “faithful” to their spouses are punishing (consciously or unconsciously) primarily themselves. They see that they made a wrong choice, in their immaturity. (Oh that pastors could be more brave in their discernment and counseling!) Then, not able to shoulder their responsibility, they lay it on their spouse. Just like Adam blamed Eve (or Adam blames Steve, or Evvie blames Eve).

Jackie’s cry is an archetypal one, relating to us all. Faithfulness is a prescription for happiness, for the other, for our Self, and for the human community. As with all such covenants, it can’t be forced; it must be freely accepted. It must be renewed by honesty and forgiveness. And, faithlessness must not ever be rewarded or become a trap – this is a betrayal of Love.

Entranced? Bowled over? Hormones inflamed? Head over heels in Love?

Remember: Companionship.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, Oct 19, 2009

I gave up shame a long time ago.

-John Lithgow, actor, artist, born
on this date, 1945

Feeling “real” shame is a good thing. Keeps us honest. That is, providing we have a moral code by which we have committed our self to live. It has nothing to do (so say I) with anyone else. Nothing to do with anyone or any institution. I have come to see in my old age and vast acquired wisdom that anything that is “imposed” by others or by a culture or by a religion has little value until that “code” has been freely embraced with passion and abandon by the person them-self. (Why won’t my spell-checker let me say “ourself”?)

Rules imposed from the “outside”, I see from my study and thought and experience, can only be guides or Flash Warnings”. A little friendly advice from the Ancients. Jesus understood this. All great teachers do. “You can lead the horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” Rules that come with punishment if you break them can “control” most people for a bit. The fact that every nation is building more prisons (if they are not, like some Islamic or other theocratic societies, summarily executing offenders) proves to me that externally imposed codes have a very short life span.

Besides: our goal, as the human community, and especially as a “religious” community, should not be to control peoples’ antisocial behaviour on a short-term basis. Surely the goal should be to shepherd people to that blessed place where we embrace a moral path voluntarily and rejoice both to follow it and to be reminded when we are not?

For decades, society and religion have been trying to shame me to conform to their standards by vilifying homosexuality. It hasn’t worked, and it is never going to work – with me or most other Gayfolk, or with other categories of people feared by the “majority”. Why? Because “God” made us in Her Image! God would never be intimidated into self-hate or hypocrisy, would She?

So, why should anyone???

“God Bless You” if you have found a religious or philosophical path that made sense to you and to which you have committed yourself to guide you on the “straight path” to your and everyone’s blessed and beautiful Humanity!

Thumbs up! Don’t give in. External controls will never bring us to a World in which we all can live in Respect and Peace. Only your personal integrity and faithfulness will do that.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, October 16, 2009

For this is the journey that men and women
make, to find themselves. If they fail in this,
it doesn't matter much else what they find.

- James Michener, author, who died on this
date, 1997

I read all his books. Fascinating. Of course, some of them were (or turned out to be) propaganda. “The Source”, for example. Misleadingly biased. Too bad: it skewed truth, in my opinion.

However, Michener makes a fundamental “spiritual” point. The critical task of every human being and of the human community is to “find themselves”. I am absolutely convinced that at the heart of all the difficulties the human community is experiencing lies the failure to understand that all human beings are connected and One, with each other and with the “Brahman” – with that great Mystery called “Being’. The Buddha said it. Jesus said it. Confucius said it. The Jewish Prophets said it. And most everyone else.

Do you get what I’m saying? We must understand that each of us is a manifestation of God. Each of us. No exceptions. We must understand this! We will not have found ourselves until we know this at the depth at the very core of our being. And – most importantly – when we act on this truth! Every one of us.

“If we fail in this, it doesn’t matter much else what they find”.

The regular folk of America (and of the whole World) will wither and die, and the insurance companies and the banks and the health care companies will prosper and live high off the hog, unless we rediscover our common humanity and our connection with each other – a connection that is the only thing that will prevent a World war and revolution that will plunge us into horrendous chaos.

Come on People. Challenge our leaders! It is we who will make the difference between a World worth living in and misery.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely.

- Cole Porter, musician, who died on this date, 1964

Even though Cole was Gay, he lived at a time when one couldn’t “be” Gay. He married, etc. And we all know from the film about him what his life was like. Interestingly, apparently one of his lovers was Jackie Bouvier Kennedy’s father.

He wrote songs that all people my age know and can sing many of. Delightful, witty songs that today, in our torn and hostile World seem so na├»ve. Sad, isn’t it?

Here are the whole lyrics of you want to reminisce:

So: a high-stepping segue. I am enough of a Romantic to think - flying in the face of the modern World, but still an optimist - that the World can be delightful, delicious and de-lovely. As a whole? Well, that would be almost impossible. But I do think that those of us who are lucky enough to be able to find it can share it, maybe only with those we meet, but still, that is “thinking globally and acting locally”. Often that’s the best we can do.

Tomorrow I will set out on my errands and meanderings intending to pump a little delightfulness, deliciousness and de-loveliness among those I encounter. I’ll hum the song as a reminder!!


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Humanity I love you because when you're hard
up you pawn your intelligence to buy a drink.

- e.e.cummings, poet, born on this date, 1894

I’m devoted to e. e. cummings. Because, many years ago when I was a “young monk” I did a retreat for a private school for girls. And when one of the girls who participated graduated, she wrote a poem in her yearbook in the “miniscule” case a la cummings ….. and mentioned me as one of the people she was glad to have encountered. How sweet! That got me reading cummings – and for awhile, I eschewed capitalization! (Most of my friends now wish I would eschew the exclamation point!!! Dream on, friends!)

Because of the ability of human beings, when “hard up”, to pawn their intelligence and buy a drink, I have come to appreciate and love human character/nature in its reality. Bless poets like cummings for leading us to see the charm and mystery and paradoxical nature of ourselves.

“Pawning your intelligence to buy a drink” is, for me, a metaphor, and a theological principle at that. What it says is that when all else collapses – brain, reason, diplomacy, etc. – we human beings, if we are smart, sit down with our fellow human beings and have a drink and eat a good meal and chit chat with a little buzz on and listen to each other and consider each other as brothers and sisters. And when we awake in the morning a little hazy, we retain a little of the things we learned about each other.

Jesus was very smart. He knew that gathering together in thanksgiving was the quintessential setting for becoming open to each other, to “honouring” each other despite whatever uncomfortableness we might feel. Though we are fast losing it, this would be true of families – a meal together weaves webs of love and connection and sympathy.

I think it is important to recognize that we human beings are complex and brilliant. But that at critical moments when complexity and brilliance fail us, we must resort to basics if we wish to survive. Eat, Drink, Talk. Most important, Listen to each other, and be interested in each other. At base, we are all the same. Each and all worthy of respect and of honour.

“Humanity I love you”. This is a worthy life-giving idea to live by.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The crimes of the U.S. throughout the world have
been systematic, constant, clinical, remorseless,
and fully documented but nobody talks about them.

- Harold Pinter, playwright. On this date, 2005,
he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature

I use “political” comments a lot as a springboard for my comments – and yes, they are biased. But my interest is primarily in so-called “spiritual” commentary. So. I think what Pinter has to say about America is correct, personally. It is also true, in my opinion, about ALL the large powerful political entities. This is Life. (Note how irenic and “balanced” I am becoming! Is this “good”? I wonder!)

Anyone know Michael Sandel? Teaches at Harvard. Just wrote a book called “Justice”. Of course, after hearing him on Charlie Rose, I downloaded his book to my Kindle – luckily, at $9.95 a book, I can get 5 a month on my (strict) budget!

The Judeo-Christian God is portrayed as deeply concerned about Justice. The prophets? Mega! Jesus? I would say so. What Michael Sandel raises with his students – and with us, in his book – is how do WE decide what is Just? What trumps – the Individual or the Community? He raises some challenging issues, and I think it would be a good thing if we were all thinking about them. This is “Inner” Work. This is “Religious” work. This is “Spiritual” work. The UN says that unless we increase our food production by 70% by 2050, a huge percentage of our over 9 billion people will be starving. When we get to that date, what will dominate – a common sense of Justice for All, or “Everyone for Themselves”? Torture – OK if more are saved by causing suffering to one? Health care – is it Just not to have all of our citizens covered?

For me, the central religious issue is, are we ALL God’s people, or only Some? I vote for ALL – and that is what guides my path. To put it in classical Christian terms, Jesus “died to save us ALL”. Not just those who “follow Him”.

I wish you Good Pondering this Tuesday!


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Matthew Shepard
Beaten & Murdered
Died on this date 1998
Laramie WY

Lest we forget
regarding Humanity:
what it means
to be Human
to be Compassionate
To love Truth
to be a true follower of the God of Love.

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, Oct 10, 2009

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing;
go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you
will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."

- Jesus to the rich young man, Mark 10 [Proper 23B RCL]

It seems to me that the issue in this passage is the difference between, on the one hand, a “conventional” ethical, moral Life (which often is vapid) and, on the other hand, Transformation and the Freedom to transcend the limitations of our mortality.

Jesus is not concerned with the “things” themselves that the young man – who represents us – had. “Things” are morally neutral. Jesus is concerned with their power over us. At the top of the list of such “things of power” are Sin and Death. Being a follower of the Gospel of Jesus does not take away Sin and Death; they are part of human nature. Rather, the Gospel is a path of denying power to Sin and Death. The object is To Live Fully. We will sin (i.e., deny Love), but we can turn away (repent). We will “die to this mortal Life”, but Death is seen as a gate into deeper Life, and loses its power (fear) over us.

The “many possessions” that the young man had were a millstone around his neck. Jesus, loving him and seeing into his soul, knew this. As great teachers often do, Jesus went right to the heart of the problem. Perhaps the young man later gained power over his “things” and used them to enhance his own and others’ lives.

The question: What is keeping us from breaking free of what holds us back from Joy, from Delight, from Love? Can we deny it power?


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, October 9, 2009

Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.

- Napoleon Bonaparte, hapless ruler.

Whoa! Heavy! But I think that Napoleon is correct. I can see in my mind’s eye the contemptuous twist of the lip! Religion has most often been on the side of Power. Pope Pius XII, whose death date is today in 1958, supported hideous anti-Christian policies of Hitler; he is a good example of a religious leader (dubious designation!) who seems to have abandoned Christ for the institution of the Church – the “poor” (the powerless) for the “rich” (the powerful). I would love to see where Dante would have put Pius XII in the rings of Hell!

If we go by Jesus, Religion was meant to “side” with the poor, the oppressed, the deprived, on all levels. Perhaps “pure Christianity” does. But the Institution is so easily co-opted! There is a simple “local” example of this in my church. I have always believed that “God” was against War. War is not justifiable in any way by the Gospel message, and attempts to make War justifiable theologically are, to me, utter apostasy. And yet we constantly have people praying for our “soldiers” – often hideously described as “heroes” - and their protection, at the Prayers. This, from people, often Christian, who have chosen a military path. I certainly don’t want anyone to be killed. Yet seldom does anyone pray for the Peacemakers! No one prays for the conversion to Love for those who espouse War. No one prays for our “enemies” – a direct affront to Jesus’ direction.

For me, it is a corollary that any authentic Religion must champion the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the lied-about, and those who oppose War.

When “Religion” supports the “rich”, i.e., a metaphor for those who disregard those who are deprived of God’s blessings and even collude in or instigate it, then “religion” must be prepared to suffer the inevitable consequences. Like being relegated to Irrelevance.

Or maybe even “murder” – metaphorically, being dismissed as irrelevant or contemptuously hypocritical or undermining of the safety of our World.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, October 8, 2009

Of course God is endlessly multi-dimensional so every religion
that exists on earth represents some face, some side of God.

- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. On this date, 1970, he was awarded
the Nobel Prize for Literature

Tuesday, at 7:30am, I was headed out on the airport bus from Grand Central in Manhattan to LaGuardia. As we emerged from the Midtown Tunnel, there was a huge billboard that said simply “2012”, and a website address. This 2012 thing – destruction or transformation – looks like it’s going to be a huge scam off of which some people will make lots of money off of the gullibility or the fears or the ignorance of people. Discouraging.

I’m not going to get caught up in 2012. Except that, as it raises its head, I am going to focus unwaveringly on the side of Transformation (as I think I said before).

To wit: Solzhenitsyn is, I believe, correct. “God” is the product of every culture or tribe that every thought up a “religion”. And of course they all bear the marks of that origin. There is no one religion that has “all the Truth” – though I am sorry to say that there are many intelligent persons I know who think this. Bottom line: we are all, we human beings, like moles burrowing around in the dark, looking for The Truth, for the Meaning of It All. Why it is that we think we want an exclusive claim on The Truth I don’t know. But I do know, at my age, that I now think this to be a dangerously immature position.

It would be much better, much better, if we humbly acknowledged the truth of Solzhenitsyn’s insight, and began to work with each other. We might even learn that it’s more pleasant for us all to tackle this Mystery together.

Think we can pull it together in just over three years?


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, October 7, 1946

I forgave the DAR many years ago. You
lose a lot of time hating people.

Prayer begins where human capacity ends.

- Marian Anderson. On this day, 1954, she
became the first African-American person
hired by the Metropolitan Opera

Oh how I wish that Marian Anderson could have been my “guardian angel”, whispering in my ear over the past four decades! I can’t say that I have spent the last four decades “hating” homophobic, ignorant people. But it comes close. And it has deeply affected my life. How people, institutions, churches, politicians, etc felt about Gayfolk has been the standard by which I have judged their value as persons. It has filled me with anger all these years. What is interesting, of course, is that despite my vocation as a Christian priest, I never “overcame” it. Not even yet. It has shaped my Life. And my view of Humanity. There have been positive and very negative dimensions to this. I have learned how prejudice and condemnation wither a person.

So: I guess I really have to get working on this, yes? It would be bad to die to this World in this condition!

As to Prayer. I disagree with Ms. Anderson. I do not believe in a “God” to whom we pray when our human capabilities and capacities end. That is magic, not prayer. “God” is not what intervenes with supernatural meddling to supercede human nature. At least that is what I think. Prayer is a relationship with the energy we intuit that will reveal to us the power of being Human and “guide” us in discerning the Path Ahead. So, we don’t start praying when we are at our “wits end”. Prayer is a life-long connection to the mysterious forces that aid us in living fully mature human lives. When we pray, we are not asking some Diety to “take over”. We are tapping into the unknown depths of our human capacities. We human beings are amazing!

Ms. Anderson encourages us to let go of hate or anything that impedes our functioning as the person we are. And to remember to “pray always”, as St. Paul said – stay in touch with the amazing resources we have to “take hold of Life” !!

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to
look things in the face and know them for what they are.

- Marcus Aurelius

Easier said than done, of course. I wonder why it is that the best “advice” about Living – like the Golden Rule or this quote from M. Aurelius or Jesus [Love One Another] – are so “simple” and yet so frustratingly difficult to sustain? It must be some similar version of Murphy’s Law?

I don’t think it’s possible to “keep an untroubled spirit” in this World unless one accepts, at a deep level, essential lack of control, various dimensions of distress, mortality, connection to others and interdependence, mystery, and wonder. This is I think, paradoxically, more difficult for those who are “privileged” in this World than for those who aren’t. Privilege breeds high expectations which are often basically fantasy, all of which limit our freedom to respond to what Life brings. As an illustration, I just learned that I no longer have any health insurance [long story]. My spirit is relatively “untroubled” - I’ve accepted the fact that if anything serious happens in the next little while, I’ll be blissfully destitute!

As to looking “things in the face and know them for what they are”, Denial is built in to help us cope – but we often tend to refuse to move out of denial when we naturally should. “Truth” is a complex issue. Pontius Pilate’s [John 18:38] comment should always be humbly remembered! I think that human beings make their own Truth – of which faith, philosophy, etc are tools. I accept the “truth” that it is always best to “look things in the face and know them for what they are” on their own basis, not on our manipulation of them. At least this is the best place to start!

I wish you a day of Untroubled Spirit and Refreshing “Are-ness” !!


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, October 3, 2009

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray,
and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of
your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving
us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits
and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

- The Collect for Sunday, October 4

What interests me is this: We human beings have had the sense to imagine a God who is helpful, supportive, generous, caring, just, compassionate, “always more ready to hear that we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve” (I’m a little prickly about that last part about “deserve”; I think we human beings “deserve” all we can get in order for our lives to blossom in the best possible way!) - and then we shoot ourselves in the foot by ignoring this God! Do we have some kind of self-hate complex, that we believe one thing and act contrary to it?

The point is: we know what we need! Basically, Unconditional Love. In Jesus, we have a Friend, who mirrors in human form the loveliness of this Unconditional Love we have imagined – but we then so easily begin to think that God is against us, that God is looking for opportunities to demean and diminish us. This is just silly. It is a projection of the deep sense of unworthiness that lurks in our “conscience”.

Hold fast to the original image of the God of Unconditional Love, and to the image of our humanity as deserving and beautiful and utterly capable of Goodness!

You will be content, and the World will slowly be reshaped and healed.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, October 1, 2009

I hate to see complacency prevail in our lives when
it's so directly contrary to the teaching of Christ.

- President Jimmy Carter, born on this date, 1924 [85 today!]

Well, I think that we can be complacent about certain things. Like “I have enough stuff and I don’t need anymore”. Unless we find that we think we are fine about “no more stuff” but actually we aren’t – like the last set of beautiful crystal wine glasses that Dennis and I hauled all the way from Wisconsin (it was really my fault) when we already have lovely wine glasses!)

So I guess Mr. Carter is right. Most things we can’t be complacent about. Control. Love. Justness. Kindness. Compassion. You know: stuff like that.

There we have it: a little concise prompt for the day!! Be Not Complacent!!