Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
How I wish we lived in a time when laws were
not necessary to safeguard us from discrimination.
Barbara Streisand, popular diva; on this date, after 22 years, she
performed her first paid concert, sold out, in Las Vegas, 1993
If “God” were an Entity to have feelings, “God’ would be delighted with our evolvement.
Any chance for 2011??
It will be tough going against the Republicans.
But let’s give it a go.
God dwells in you, as you, and you don't have
to 'do' anything to be God-realized or Self-realized,
it is already your true and natural state. Just drop
all seeking, turn your attention inward, and sacrifice
your mind to the One Self radiating in the Heart of
your very being. For this to be your own presently
lived experience, Self-Inquiry is the one direct and
Ramana Maharshi, Hindu philosopher
and yogi; born on this date, 1879
What I “worry” about is this: what do most people see when they “turn your attention inward”??? Now, I know what I see ….. and it actually didn’t take very long, now that I think about it. I “see” - and have seen since I was in my early twenties and left Canada to join the Order of the Holy Cross – a beautiful man. I have never had a moment’s doubt about that, despite the many times that that truth failed to manifest in my behaviour, for the many reasons that we human beings all struggle to manifest the “One Self radiating in the Heart “ of my very Being.
I am often grateful that I was born in Canada in the fourties. Homosexuality was “whispered about”, but there was little overt ranting. It is a little bit ironic that I came to the USA age 21, to a religious order where almost everyone was Gay, but to a society that was rife with hate against Gayfolk (and still is). But, that’s how Mystery works. I landed in a setting that affirmed being Gay, and in a religious setting where God affirmed Gayfolk unconditionally. Funny, eh?!
“Turn your attention inward, and sacrifice your mind to the One Self radiating in the Heart of your very being”. And, if you don’t find a beautiful person, practice Self –Inquiry.
The beautiful person you are IS there. Just push aside all the other nonsense.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Modern man must descend the spiral of his own
absurdity to the lowest point; only then can he
look beyond it. It is obviously impossible to get
around it, jump over it, or simply avoid it.
Vaclav Havel, playwright; on this date, 1989,
he was elected President of Czechoslovakia, the
first non-Communist to hold the post in over 40
Havel wrote a lot about Hope. He accurately said, “Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.”
From his words I take Hope. I think that the World has almost reached the bottom rung of the spiral of its own absurdity. Not that it hasn’t happened before ….. but that is not the point. It’s important that we have reached that stage once again for our own sakes. We are still playing at getting around it, jumping over it, avoiding it. But I think that the signs are clear: we are quickly approaching a moment of collapse in a pile of shattered bones.
Which means that Hope ….. real Hope, as Havel identifies it ….. can rise. I, being an optimist (really, I am!) think that most of us know what is “good”. Let us begin to look beyond Absurdity and enact Good in simple ways.
It will spread.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Although none of the rules for becoming
more alive is valid, it is healthy to keep
on formulating them.
Susan Sontag, activist, author, intellectual,
died on this day, 2004, age 71
I often wonder when I read what people have said (a) in what context did they say them, and (b) what was their life like? I want to read their autobiographies – but I can’t afford it, even at Kindle prices! Nor do I have the time ….. because I’m enjoying living my own Life!
I treasure Ms. Sontag. She gave us all much of value. And I agree with Ms. Sontag: it is healthy to keep on formulating “rules” for becoming more alive.
I completely disagree with her that “none of the rules” is valid.
Give. Of everything, including Self. I have tried my best in my Life. And I can tell you: never have I felt more healthy ….. and I have never felt personally diminished or demeaned.
It isn’t a “rule”. It’s the discovery of a Truth, about oneself and about Life. You may wonder why people like Jesus and the Buddha are revered? They fully gave of themselves that others might find Life.
Think about it.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
If there is a supreme being, he's crazy.
Marlene Dietrich, actress, singer, enter-
tainer, beautiful; she was born on this date,
1901, in Berlin.
I’ve been doing these Reflections now for over 5 years. And the more quotes I use, the more I realize that it isn’t easy to find out if the person really said it or not. Perhaps I should always say “attributed to”?? Anyway, I’ll probably hear from someone who thinks Ms. Dietrich didn’t say it; I often do hear from people when they disagree! Anyway, as I have often said, I very often use a quote for my own purpose ….. so I suppose it really doesn’t matter if it was wrongly attributed!
I’ve been to many places in the World. I don’t think I’ve been anywhere where there is a popular picture of God that is as “crazy” as in America. I actually don’t think that this understanding of God is held by the majority of Americans ….. but you wouldn’t know it from the media. I won’t produce a long list of these crazy characteristics; I think you get my point. Suffice it to say that the God portrayed in the “Left Behind” book series (which have sold gazillions) says it all. I hope I die sooner that the authors, so I can be standing at the Pearly Gates to hear what Peter has to say – though I’m sure St. Peter will be gentlemanly, and …… who knows, Marlene might be standing next to him, since she is alleged to have said, “I am at heart a gentleman”.
A plea: could some kind rich soul please give me a billion or two dollars? I’d like to make a retirement career of trying to countermand the concept of the Crazy Supreme Being. I promise not to turn into a weeping televangelist with 42 Rolls Royces, really. But until someone does, could all of us who don’t have a crazy view of the Supreme Being just do a little something now and then, by word or deed, to project a better more accurate understanding?
The Blessed Trinity ….. and I ….. would be most grateful.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Christ is the population of the world,
and every object as well.
There is no room for hypocrisy.
Why bitter soup for healing,
when sweet water is everywhere?
Rumi, Sufi (Muslim) poet, 13th C
Choice. We all have a choice. That is perhaps the central point of the Biblical myth of Adam and Eve: what “voice” do we choose to listen to from within? To the voice of “God”, or to the voice of “the Serpent”? That choice determines the kind of person we will be or strive to be.
Good or Evil? Just or Unjust? Gentle or Belligerent? Proud or Compassionate? Generous or Miserly? Every day we are making choices, consciously or unconsciously, that shape our Humanity and our Identity.
The “coming of Christ” - the “incarnation”, the presence of the Holy in our flesh - speaks, as Rumi knew, to a universal question: Who are we, as a race, as individuals?
The Choice is ours. “Bitter Soup” or “Sweet Water”.
I wish us all this Christmas Day the power and will to choose Sweet Water.
Friday, December 24, 2010
The Christ, symbolizing Life and Light.
There is no handle outside;
We must invite Life in.
[ painting by William Hollum Hunt ]
Brian’s Reflection: Friday, December 24, 2010
Eve of the Incarnation: A Greeting
Who stands at my door in the storm and rain
On the threshold of being?
One who waits till you call him in
From the empty night.
Are you a stranger, out in the storm,
Or has my enemy found me out
On the edge of bring?
I am no stranger who stands at the door
Nor enemy come in the secret night,
I am your child, in darkness and fear
On the verge of being
from “Incarnation”, poem 3,
by Kathleen Raine
Life offers Itself to us all
moment by moment.
On this night of the deepest Mystery
Life comes to stand at our door,
certainly no enemy,
saying “I am your child”.
We both are One.
This sacred night,
invite him in … forever.
Brian & Dennis
Christian Feast of the Incarnation 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Since there's no help, come, let us kiss and part,
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me,
And I am glad, yea, glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love's latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies,
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes,
Now, if thou wouldst, when all have giv'n him over,
From death to life thou might'st him yet recover.
Michael Drayton, English Elizabethan poet;
he died on this date, 1631
On the surface, this seems a poem to a lover about a love that has gone cleanly sour. Perhaps.
I see it as a poem about self-alienation, and about reclaiming one’s Wholeness. And, I think, about what Religion might call Repentance, “turning away from and to”.
It is so easy to be “out of love” with oneself. I know how critical I can be of myself. How annoyed with my seeming stupidity about things. How unconnected with my hope and vision for the person I desire to be. How judgmental of my failures. How alienated from my place in the Universe.
To be able to free oneself “so cleanly” of things in one’s Life that one may have “loved” but which have turned sour and become destructive is one of the great gifts of a life of Faith. Seen clearly and rightly, the path of the Gospel of Christ is such a Faith. It tells us to see honestly the things which are destructive to our humanity and person; to “kiss and part” cleanly; to let go of destructive “loves” so cleanly that “when we meet at any time again / Be it not seen in either of our brows / That we one jot of former love retain”.
Theologically, “Death” is the permitted destruction of an “old Self” so that a “new Self” can emerge. Christians – well, this eclectic Christian anyway! – believe in such a “God” ….. a God Who, “when all have given” us “over”, from “death to life thou might’st” us “yet recover”.
This is a season in which we are asked to honour and welcome into our Selves this Holy Presence Who brings the gift of “clean” Wholeness.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Leonardo da Vinci
One of the “messages” of Incarnation (Latin: meaning, “coming into flesh”) – I prefer this term to “Christmas”, as “Christmas” is a churchy, religious term referring to a church liturgy, and I don’t like that hijacking! – is that the essence of what we call God can be and is found in the human person.
I’ve always thought that God was very clever. God, being by definition Unknowable, figured out that we Humans would get the hint by pandering to our all-too-human Ego. “I’ll be one of Them” She said! And the angelic host chuckled, saying behind their hands to each other, “Really, She is TOO much!”.
Simple, right? And that lovely human Leonardo (Gay, bless his heart) knew that if God is anything, She is “sophisticated” – the meaning of which comes from the Greek “Sophia” meaning knowledge, and means knowing how to be Wise. “I’ll just become Human”, said She ….. and hope that SOME of those humans will get the point. The point being, that WE are the manifestation of the Mystery of Devine. Got it?
Problem: only a few of us seem to get the point, alas. We make all these flowery, grandiose claims for the nature of “God” – Goodness, Love, Compassion, Justice, Kindness – and we claim that we are Children of God made in the Imago Dei ….. and then we mostly reject the connection!
The message of Incarnation is Simple, and therefore ultimately sophisticated:
Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t
claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.
Rumi’s comment points to a real problem most of us have. We miss a great deal of Life, because we can’t just stand in its flow and honour it and let Life leave what it will with us. No. We either have to control it in some way – a sure sign of ill-ease with Life and with our own selves. Or, we have to engage It and manipulate It in some way. We can’t let it Be, in Silence. We can’t just wonder at the Moon- no, we have to plant a flag there, or at the North Pole, or in Space. We have, we human tribes, to gather our “toys”.
When I was a teenager, I used to take my grandmother’s boat and row to the end of our lake. Park it, and follow a path through to the next lake, which was uninhabited. There I would lie on the warm rocks, indulge in sexual fantasies, have my sandwich for lunch, and then float in the warm water and revel in the wonder of that place: the absolute quiet, the sound of the breeze in the leaves, the glittering of the sun on the water, the freshness of the water on my body, the “artistry” of the Earth.
I learned a lesson from Mother Earth. To be a part of Her; not to “claim” Her but to dance with Her; to let Her be and not to desire to reshape Her. It was an important lesson. It has stood me in good stead when it comes to the Mystery of God and of Human Beings ….. including myself.
Does this mean that I just have to let everything Be as it is? Not try to influence it? No, though sometimes! It does mean that respecting everything and everyone initially – letting their artistry move through and being silent - is the best basis for the future.
This Christmas, this Kwanza – whatever holy-day or Mystery may be celebrated – Observe, Feel, Be Silent. It will reveal its deeper or hidden message!
Saturday, December 18, 2010
"Look, the young woman shall conceive and
bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel"
The Gospel called “Matthew”, chapter 1
[ The full text can be found here: http://www.io.com/~kellywp/YearA_RCL/Advent/AAdv4_RCL.html ]
If you are wanting to express the majestic wonder of human persons fully alive, you pull out all the stops! “Matthew” was not able to let go enough, alas. But “Luke” – now whoever pulled together that telling of the story knew how to pull out all the stops!
On this last Sunday of Advent, we are brought back to the conception by Mary of her son. We hear that it is a unique child, a creation of human (Mary) and the Divine (Holy Spirit).
So when we come to the “manger” as we celebrate the Incarnation of Jesus on December 25th, revel in the wonder and beauty and mystery of the Story, certainly. Then let it slowly dissolve before your inner eye. Wonder at the message, as Joseph did from that of the angel. Remember all the fears we each have about opening ourselves in vulnerability and trust to that little fleeting glimpse we get now and then of the sheer ecstasy of flinging ourselves into the vast possibilities of love, of abandonment to generosity, of all that Jesus (and many great teachers of Wisdom) called being “born of the Spirit”.
We are being invited to Come Alive. Invited not to be afraid. The Divine One – that great mystery of Life which we can only barely begin to describe – waits to be born from and in each of us ….. moment by moment, day by day, year by year. Emmanuel: “God” with us. What a Journey if we can throw ourselves into it!
O Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet istud? Quia nec primam similem visa es nec habere sequentem. Filiae Ierusalem, quid me admiramini? Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.
Virgin of Virgins, how shall this be? for neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after: Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? the thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.
To be extravagantly human! It is indeed a ….. Divine Mystery. May we all touch it in our Journey.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter
suaviter disponensque omnia: veni ad
docendum nos viam prudentiae.
O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth
of the most High, and reachest from one end
to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all
things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.
O Sapientia, the first “Great O” Antiphon of Advent
On the evening of December 17 the final phase of preparation for Christmas begins with the first of the great "O Antiphons" of Advent. These prayers are seven jewels of liturgical song, one for each day until Christmas Eve. They seem to sum up all our Advent longing for the Savior.
The "O Antiphons" are intoned with special solemnity in monasteries at Vespers, before and after the Magnificat, Mary's prayer of praise and thanksgiving from the Gospel of Luke (2:42-55), which is sung every evening as the climax of this Hour of the Divine Office.
A vestige of the "Great O's" can be seen in verses of the familiar Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel".
Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).
Wisdom is here personified, present with God at the beginning of creation. This is a prefigurement of Jesus, the eternal Word of God, the "logos" John described in the opening of his gospel. Wisdom is the foundation of fear of the Lord, of holiness, or right living: it is wisdom whom we bid to come and teach us prudence. The cry "Come" will be repeated again and again, insistent and hope- filled.” (Fr. Roger Landry)
Listen, meditate, on Holy Wisdom, and on Prudence.
Music here: http://www.fisheaters.com/audio/sapientia.mp3
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
One of the essential paradoxes of Advent: that while we
wait for God, we are with God all along ,that while we need
to be reassured of God's arrival, or the arrival of our home-
coming, we are already at home. While we wait, we have to
trust, to have faith, but it is God's grace that gives us that faith.
As with all spiritual knowledge, two things are true, and equally
true, at once. The mind can't grasp paradox; it is the know-
ledge of the soul.
Michelle Blake, “The Tentmaker”
Things have been, are now, and will be – and it is all true at the same time. I believe that. We human beings don’t just exist in linear Time, divorced second by second from what has gone before, shut out from the possibilities of the “Future”. The human brain experiences all of it at the same time – the Mysterious Present! The Paradoxical Present. Wonder at what has gone before and expectation of what is Coming form and shape the Present. The skill or art is to learn to live It as One. It sounds weird ….. but we do I think live both “at home” and at the coming “arrival of our homecoming”. In the end, there is no disjuncture, no “great gulfs fixed”.
I think that Blake is correct in what she says, essentially. But I think she is incorrect about one thing: the mind can indeed grasp Paradox. It is, in my opinion, one of the distinguishing elegances of being Human.
“Paradox” comes from the Greek, meaning “contrary to” (para) and “opinion” (doxa – belief). The truth is, two seemingly contradictory things can in fact coexist together as a deeper understanding of Truth. As I think about it, this is what the Council of Nicea was saying (consciously or unconsciously) when it “defined” the doctrine of the Nature of the Christ as “fully Human and fully Divine”. On the surface, it seems absurd to say. But the doctrine of the Incarnation says it! Says that the Divine became Human. And what I find even more important, it also then says that we Humans are also “Divine”.
Advent asks us to poise ourselves to see a grander vision of Who We Are. No, it does not invite us to be grandiose, to “puff ourselves up”. Any intelligent person can just look at oneself or at human history and see what “paradoxes” we are! Such contradiction!
What I value about Advent is that it asks us to see not the lowest common denominator of what it is to be Human, but the “created a little lower than the angels” aspect of being Human!
Advent starts the Christian liturgical year. We will advance through it, challenged by the Liturgy to ponder a plethora of Mysteries, of Paradoxes. But we will start this Journey not as debased beings ….. but as Imagi Dei – manifestations of the Beauty and Wonder that is Life.
Monday, December 13, 2010
The supreme trick of Old Scratch is to have us so busy decorating,
preparing food, practicing music and cleaning in preparation for the
feast of Christmas that we actually miss the coming of Christ. Hurt
feelings, anger, impatience, injured egos—the list of clouds that
busyness creates to blind us to the birth can be long, but it is familiar to us all.
Edward Hayes, “A Pilgrim’s Almanac”
“Old Scratch”. Ah yes. That personified subtle, seemingly eminently rational whisperer that fills our heads with doubts and uncertainties and delusions and fears, “hurt feelings, anger, impatience, injured egos”. With so many things – clouds – distracting us from “birth”.
Becoming fully human, – and when I talk of this, I don’t mean achieving some kind of “perfection”, some kind of super-humanity – taking even the first steps, disturbs whatever it is in us and around us which opposes Goodness, Kindness, Compassion. It is one of the great Mysteries of Life that such an opposition exists in our nature ….. at least it is to me. Yet when I place the moments in my Life when I have chosen Goodness over the (many) times I have turned away from Goodness, I know when I have felt most at Peace, most Myself.
Advent-time – Waiting Time, Longing Time, Searching Time – opens up in our days, inviting us to put aside the clouds of busyness and to be “born” in heart and spirit, to become fully embodied. One can go a long time enveloped in fog; Nicodemus knew that when Jesus gently chastised him for his honoured wisdom in the community but his inner lack of understanding.
No day should pass in our earthly pilgrimage without “the birth”. Somewhere within that birth is “familiar to us all”. It whispers to us eternally, and it is that whisper we are training to hear.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
What has happened to the old-fashioned, spiritual Christmas? The cause is
our disregard of Advent. The church set aside this four-week pre-Christmas
season as a time of spiritual preparation for Christ’s coming. It is a time of
quiet anticipation. If Christ is going to come again into our hearts, there must
be repentance. Without repentance, our hearts will be so full of worldly things
that there will be ‘no room in the inn’ for Christ to be born again.…We have the
joy not of celebration, which is the joy of Christmas, but the joy of Anticipation.
John R. Brokhoff, in “Preaching the Parables”
Christians are in the last full week of the liturgical “season” called Advent. So, I’m going to concentrate on this for the next few days. The word “Advent” derives from the Latin – Coming (venire) To (ad). Advent is, to my mind, a universal “spiritual” season in human lives. In some way, every faith or religion has an Advent – “a time of spiritual preparation for Christ’s coming.”
To be more precise as well as inclusive, “The” Christ’s coming – by which I mean, the preparation of the human heart for the “descent” of the Life-giving Breath of the Divine into each of us. Or, in other words, our awakening to our Human fullness and destiny as the amazing Being that we each Are.
Brokhoff laments the loss of the “old-fashioned, spiritual Christmas”. I do too. Somewhere along the way, the celebration of the Presence of God in the Universe and in each of us – called in Christian terms the “Incarnation” (from the Latin “made flesh in”) – became distorted. And whenever it happened, modern advertising, in its manipulative skill, took the story of the Three Magi Bearing Gifts (a rich symbolic story) and managed to convince us that the Incarnation was all about buying stuff to give to others, or ourselves. Shame on us for being so dull-witted.
Of course I’ll add my “rant” here: let’s forget it! I don’t care if the whole economy collapses if we do forget it! We’ll reorganize. It’s more important to tend to our evolving into our full Humanity!
The Mystery of the Divine coming “again into our hearts” is a daily, momentary thing. The Problem? We human beings can be very – as the Brits would say – “thick”. “The World is too much with us” as I think Shakespeare said. All practice of Religion (from the Latin, meaning “to be re-tied to”) is for the purpose of connecting us to our Path to Wholeness. Hence my occasional warnings that Religion must be monitored regularly to make sure that it is doing its job.
“”Repentance” means (yes, from the Latin! God, I wish that Western education hadn’t been so stupid as to stop teaching Latin; how the hell are young people, or others, ever going to understand Western culture??!!) to “regret or feel sorry”. The implication being that out of regret or sorrow will come an openness to being coaxed towards ….. Beauty. Which is Truth, as someone famously said.
Who, in your deepest either Joy or Despair, have you longed to be? Advent invites us to long for it and expect it.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Truly I tell you, among those born of women
no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
The Gospel called Matthew for Advent III RCL, Chap 11
Here is the full text if you would like to read it: http://www.io.com/~kellywp/YearA_RCL/Advent/AAdv3_RCL.html
Jesus’ point is clear here. There is no inferiorization of John the Baptist. Nor of women. Jesus deeply honours John as the Forerunner, the Announcer, the “one who come before”. And in no way is he denigrating women or the fact that we are all “born of women”.
Jesus is simply and clearly pointing out that being born into the “Kingdom of God” is a “new birth” in the Spirit of God. That when we step over into that Kingdom of Love, Justice, Compassion, of “loving one another as He loved us”, we are in a new dimension of Life. We no longer are just “born of woman” – “flesh” is the Biblical term - ; we have made contact with the Mystery of God and have entered a new dimension of Life, a new dimension of what it means to be Human . If we were Buddhists, we would say that we have been Enlightened. If we were Hindu, we would say that we have been reincarnated into a higher level of Life, closer to eternal Freedom. But it all means the same thing: we have been “quickened” ….. a new depth of Life has been revealed. In the Genesis “Creation Myth”, it is the moment when God breathes Life into the creature of dust.
We all start out fleeing to John the Baptist, drawn into the Wilderness for whatever reason. But at some moment, the Christ, the Presence of the Holy, “descends” upon us as the Spirit descended upon Jesus at his baptism by John. We discover the path to full Humanity, or it is revealed to us in some experience.
Every human being stands – perhaps many times - on the precipice of entering Full Humanity ….. like a baby bird fledging and gathering the courage to leap from the nest and fly ….. souring into “the Kingdom”.
Advent reminds us that we are jumping up and down on the edge of the nest, gazing out over the World, knowing that we are destined to fly.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Imagine! The poet Emily Dickinson was born on this date 180 years ago! My own feeling is that she is not so renown for her technical poetic skill, but rather for her brilliance of thought. She is a great treasure for America. I hope you have – indeed make – some time today to read a little bit about her (thank the deities for Google) and read and ponder a poem or two of hers.
I think the process that Emily describes is one that goes on daily for us. From before our birth in this Earthly life until the time we pass from it. In many ways, we are always like an infant, tottering and falling and having to learn and relearn. If we are fortunate, as our Life is built, we are attended by “the Augur and the Carpenter”, shoring us up and shaping us. As I think of it, “The Augur and the Carpenter” might be a good metaphor for the Mystery we call God.
The “good times” for us are, certainly, the times of loving support. But perhaps better, the times when “the scaffolds drop”. Then we forge ahead on our own, from the moment of careening across the floor on our first steps unassisted, to the moment we face into our Passing with grace and peace and a smile.
I do hope that you have had as good teaching as I have had for this wonderful Journey. The Augurs and the Carpenters have been good, and the drops of the scaffold have been thrilling! I’ve had a wonderful Life, and I wish it for you.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Death is the golden key that
opens the palace of eternity.
John Milton, English poet,
born on this date, 1608
I’m very very glad that I wasn’t born in John Milton’s time or context! So dreary! Dreary religion especially, and it comes across (at least to me) in his poem “Paradise Lost”. I’ve tried to read it several times. Dreary! I can appreciate the skill of the poetry. I can appreciate Milton’s human struggle. But the religious mindset …..Dreary!
Theologically, “Death” is not a moment in sequential Earthly time. Theologically, Death is the adjustment to the reality of mortality, by which we then become free to live.
In general, American Christianity (and it is not alone) does not “get” this. American Christianity has been co-opted by the culture which says that “we can live and be young forever”. It’s a bill of goods we’ve been sold by the purveyors of delusion on which so much of American religion and culture is based.
“Eternity” has little to do with “Pie in the Sky when you Die”. Not as I understand the Gospel. “Eternity” is the inner state of Freedom to Live. The more Reality we can embrace, the more robust that state. I have a lovely friend of 50 who has battled serious cancer. She is, at the moment, “cancer free”. But she recently said that she chooses to indentify as a “person living with cancer”. (I can relate; I am the same.) And I know her well enough that I understand she has chosen the Freedom to Live. She has chosen Eternity. Each of her days has become filled with the whole possibility that resides in the Mystery we call God, Life.
There is a Golden Key. It is anyone’s for the asking.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
The ultimate mystery is one's own self.
Sammy Davis Jr., he was born
on this date, 1925, in Manhattan
What a Life. The only African-American member of the “Rat Pack”; made millions as an entertainer; died in 1990 of throat cancer ….. and in debt to the IRS. Is it not amazing how Life can go?? One day on a golf course with Jack Benny, he was asked what his handicap was. His answer? “I’m a one-eyed Negro Jew”. It’s always a blessing to have a sense of humour!
OK. There are lots of mysteries in the World, in Existence. The World Itself is (I capitalize, because I see the World as a goddess - Gaia); Kindness is; Love is; Time is; Feelings are; Sadness is; Loneliness is; Friends are; The Universe is; Stars are; the Body is; Wonder is. The List is endless ….. and so all things are Mystery.
The Self? Oh yes!! There may be things about the Universe that we both know and know we don’t know ….. in spades! But ….. “one’s own Self”. I have lived in this persona, of this Earth, for nearly 65 years. And I know that I have only scratched the surface about my Self. I constantly amaze myself! Now that I am older, I am more open to learning the reality about my Self. I think about the fact that I/we use only about 10% of our brain, and I am left mouth-agaped. But you know, I am also left with a deep Peace. These days, I wake up knowing that I know very little, and delighted that I will undoubtedly learn something new today. And I rest in a kind of euphoria of Expectation ….. which this Advent season so elegantly pictures.
Oh you young folk! I really hope that this can be a part of your Life right now! I really would love to think that you will get farther than I!
Sunday, December 5, 2010
God is always coming to you in the Sacrament
of the Present Moment. Meet and receive Him
there with gratitude in that sacrament.
Evelyn Underhill, “mystic”, philosopher; she was
born on this date, in England, 1875.
I seem to be on a “jag” about the Now these days. I guess because it’s Advent, with all of its sense of the conflation of Time and Being.
But I have to come clean. I was “brought up” with thinking about Heaven, and what you had to do to get there, and what you had to “do” to convince God to let you in. I’ve been thinking all that stuff these days ….. and I realize that I have never been really interested in “Heaven”. Not since I was 21, and joined the Order of the Holy Cross, and began to read and think. Just like I was give the gift of knowing that being Gay was without any moral condemnation, the gift of naturally being able to live in the Present – and enjoy it – has saved me enormous angst!
Now, I look at this unconcern with “Heaven” as a Gift. Yep, a gift. A gift that the Mystery of God “gave me”. As soon as I began to think about it, I realized that anything one did to win God’s “favor” and attain the Afterlife – like being “good” – was at best manipulation and at worst complete deceit and self-delusion. And every knows – or should know – that God cannot be fooled.
It seems to me that worrying about God in the past or future tense is Avoidance of the mystery of God. I think about the Sacraments – all of them ….. and to the Orthodox Church the number of Sacraments is limitless, God bless them! Unlike the Roman tendency to limited tidiness. I mush prefer the Orthodox vision of Reality. The Earth is “filled with the glory of God / as the waters cover the sea”.
The Sacrament of the Present, of the Now, is indeed perhaps the “perfect” Sacrament. But all Sacraments surely are the same - some simple sensual tangible “thing/s” just waiting to explode with the revelation of greater Majesty? Simple bread and wine at the Eucharist/Communion/Lord’s Supper becoming cellular with out cells and nourishing us with the life of that Mystery of Life we often call God. Bemusing and mind-blowing at the same time.
To the extent that we engage with the Now, with what is happening to us right at this moment, the greater our connection with the vast Mystery that is Life. Life is “What Is” ….. and God is reported once said to Moses, “I AM”!
We human beings like to think that we know how and when God “comes to us”. And by Jove we have made up a barrelful of rules about how that can and can’t happen. You have to believe this, belong to that religion, etc. It’s all Delusion. The great Jesuit spiritual director de Foucauld once said, “God speaks to us in everything that happens to us” ….. and he was right on the money!
We humans exist in the context we call “God”. It is inescapable. It’s a given. All is Stardust, and we have been part of it since the beginning ….. if there was only one.
Partake of the Sacrament of the Present Moment.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who
is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not
worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with
the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his
hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will
gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will
burn with unquenchable fire.
The Gospel called “Matthew”, chapter 3 [for Advent II]
[ Here are the Lessons for the Second Sunday in Advent: And let me say that I hope these ruminations are helpful to all; the Gospel’s words don’t just enlighten Christians! http://www.io.com/~kellywp/YearA_RCL/Advent/AAdv2_RCL.html ]
I’m focusing on the Gospel ….. obviously; though you may find the Readings informatory.
First: we mustn’t assume that ALL the people who went out to see John, called the Baptist, in the Wilderness were hypocrites or stupid. Many must have gone out of deep sense of inner spirit ….. but if we use the statistics of those in parishes who are “committed”, it is about 10-15%! But the story centers on the hypocrites, the self-interested, the opportunistic.
As to language about “end times” and coming judgment and “unquenchable fire”, I keep all that in perspective. I am not concerned generally with “what will come”; I am concerned with who we are NOW and how we live our lives. “End Time” language is a kind of “scare tactic”, mean to get us focused on how we are living now.
This Advent lesson is one of Hope. I is “Good News”! It basically says that the Christ – namely the essence of the power to be fully human as seen from the Gospel perspective, that is, a fully evolved Creature of Love, is Within. And that that Inner Power can be reached. That it is exerting its influence within us, whether we know it or not – it is that Winnowing Fork, seeking to sift out from us all those things that dehumanize us. Is it not a happy thing to contemplate that it is within our very nature to be evolving towards Wholeness and Freedom? Religion is, of course, meant to aid this process. I take heart that the Pharisees and Sadducees had the intuitive sense to go to John; they are the iconic metaphor of our own longing for Holiness.
But the Advent warning is clear. All things are tending towards Wholeness ….. but we must desire it. It seems in the World today that most do NOT desire it ….. and that makes me wonder what people are being taught about Reality. I’ve been (uncharacteristically) watching TV today ….. just to see what is being communicated. It is relentlessly a theology of Salvation by Stuff – mostly Crap. And I know of no religious or secular community that is not under its power. I am particularly saddened these days by Islam, which seems to be caught in a trap of rigid moralism on the one hand and a prideful sense of delusional superiority on the other.
The “Kingdom of God” in WITHIN. If we want Peace, Justice, Joy in our personal and common earthly lives, we must open to transformation.
The “ax is lying at the root of the trees”. Every human heat should rejoice.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
All ambitions are lawful except those which climb
upward on the miseries or credulities of mankind.
Joseph Conrad, novelist (“Heart of Darkness”); he was
born on this date, 1857, in Berdychiv, Russian Empire
Well. So much for the Corporate Empires of the World ….. now “classed” by the Supreme Court of the USA as “Persons” and therefore able to exert, “legally”, all their power and money in maintaining their control of the World. Hang on folks. If you thought that we peons were indentured servants or slaves now, wait and see what the future brings!
The problem with rampant capitalism – along with any political or economic system which has no moral foundation – is that it lacks any connection with human compassion, concern, sense of community, or with any other sense of our common responsibility for each other. I lived for a little while in Liberia in the 70’s, when Firestone Rubber “owned” the country. It didn’t matter how many people died, as long as Firestone made as much money as possible through its rubber plantations. I lived in Nicaragua for awhile in the early 70’s; the country rotted while the dictator Somoza and his cronies (supported by the USA) raped the country. I visited many times in Brasil in the 80’s – the corporate rich lived lavishly while millions of people barely survived in wretched favelas I visited, and children lay dead in streets flowing with human waste.
It is not only the “corporations” which fulfill their ambitions on the miseries of the poor. It is equally many religions which do so on the “credulities of mankind”. People often wonder why I am not “fond” of Mother Theresa. It is because while she may have provided comfort for many sick and dying people, she was perpetuating the conditions that kept so many people in such dreadful condition, all because her religion told her to do so. I admire her charity ….. but not her lack of justice, which God commands us to love.
My understanding of the Gospel and of Jesus tells me that Jesus would agree with Conrad: It is to crucify Him yet again to achieve our ambitions “on the miseries or crudulities of mankind”. And it is even more grievous to do so claiming that we are being loving or charitable.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
An opera begins long before the curtain goes
up and ends long after it has come down. It
starts in my imagination, it becomes my life,
and it stays part of my life long after I've left
the opera house.
Maria Callas, diva; born on this date, 1923
Ah. Maria Callas. Drama personified. Dramatic voice ….. though in my opinion uncontrolled, inaccurate, shrill (like the so-called “period” violins that have become so popular, and which I hate!). But she poured out feeling, emotion. In a singer, that can be seductive!
“Opera” ….. meaning “work”. Life is an Opera. It begins “long before the curtain goes up” ….. i.e., when we are born into this World, so much that has gone before us in the history of the human race will have a tremendous influence on our lives. And as we grow, all that has gone before will invade and become part of the Imagination, and it will shape us and teach us and guide us towards what we shall become. As to the time after our Passing, I have no facts and some Imagination! But when we have put down our earthly lives and “left the opera house”, our “work” will pour it’s power onto those who knew us and loved us ….. and so the Journey goes on.
“Advent”, as it takes its part in the Wisdom of the human community, reminds all of the human race that the Past and the Future fold in and make the Present, the Now. I’ve heard many great opera divas through my years. Sometimes Callas was really “off”; sometimes sublime! Leontyne too – though she was exquisitely more “pulled together” than Callas. But there were moments of Magic when everything came together, all the glory of the Past and all the possibility of the Future ….. and a Now moment brought Heaven to Earth. I will never forget the night that Leontyne Price floated for over 10 bars and magically “disappeared”. After a stunned ten seconds of utter silence that seemed forever, the Met audience erupted in a roar that raised the hair on the back of my neck. The Now exploded. All that had ever been and would be came together at that moment.
This is what our lives are meant to be: the utter Present, graced by all that has gone before and propelled by all we yearn for in the Yet To Come.
Let’s give it all we’ve got!
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
I'm working my way toward divinity.
Bette Midler, fabulous woman and entertainer;
she was born on this date, 1945, in Honolulu
The Divine Miss M!! She is one of my absolute favourite persons. Of course I’ve never met her. So I have no idea what she is “really” like. But I have seen many of her shows, and absolutely love and admire and respect her. When she sings “That’s the story of, that’s the glory of Love”, in that slow slow ballad way, with it’s, I think, great and wise lyrics, I am transported into another World. Remember the song she wrote and sang for her infant son? Just brimming with love and pride! She’s a hard worker, and she has a big heart, and she has a terrific voice. She’s a thoughtful and perceptive actress. She’s six months older than I am, and I’ve kind of grown up with her. I’m grateful.
We are all working our way “toward divinity”. No, not to being God ….. but toward knowing and living the truth that we are all made from stardust. We share in the Mystery of the divine majesty of being part of the Life that burst forth from the Big Bang. Our human destiny is as big and bold as the Universe itself. So often the venality of being Human can discourage us; we are capable of such base things. And yet, 55 years ago today, Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus ….. and there we see the great dignity and courage and “divinity” of a human being blazing forth.
We are walking together toward divinity. Let’s walk together in the Light. Be the wind beneath each others’ wings.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Deceiving others. That is what
the world calls a romance.
Oscar Wilde, author, poet; he
died on this day, 1900, age 46
It’s everywhere, this deceit. Everywhere. I see it a lot in my personal experience. In conversation or a relationship I don’t speak the truth. I decline to address the deceit, the pain, the delusion, the avoidance, the shallowness. Is this a “given” of social intercourse?? Is this why Prophets are so necessary and so valuable – because they fear not to speak truth to power or to falseness?
As Wilde implies, I have certainly seen it in developing relationships, personal or political. They are equally destructive. And I wonder: is this a necessary “survival mechanism” of the Human community?? And then I ask: Are we so fearful and vulnerable to the Truth?
Perhaps one of the most terrible place I have seen it is in the “search process” for a new priest. The parish lies about themselves. The candidates all lie in applying for the position. They both lie in the interview process. And often it ends in heartbreak and misery. Same with a marriage, as Wilde implies. And it says much about us that we think of this in terms of “romance”. How sad that we feel the need to posture so much. Do we not know, really, that honesty will always serve us best, as preserve us from a lot of suffering?
Love requires the constant determination to let go of all deception. About oneself. About the Other. A really life-giving relationship is one in which there is no need to deceive, to prevaricate, to hide, to pretend. I deeply hope that such relationships will grow, individually and nationally, religiously and intellectually and politically.
Romance. Flowers, charm, dinner, sweet-nothings. Ah yes. It’s fun for a bit. But the World does not need too much of Romance. This is a time to speak truth to each other, in Love and Respect.
We need to romance each other with true, not false, Love. That’s what Jesus did. We no longer have time for misleading in our torn World. Let’s reclaim the inner practice of humility, and the presenting of an honest Self to others.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Humans are amphibians - half spirit and
half animal. As spirits they belong to the
eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.
C.S. Lewis, writer, novelist, thinker; he was
born on this date, 1898, in Belfast.
Well. I must say the fact that I am quoting C. S. Lewis is a sign of my maturing maturity! Lewis said some very ignorant and vicious things about homosexuality in his book “The Four Loves” – whereupon I stopped reading him ….. except for the Chronicles of Narnia. But, I’m willing to let it go ….. on the assumption that we are all ignorant at times. I hope he got over it. Someone out there probably knows whether he did or not.
However: I disagree with him about the “half spirit and half animal” bit. We human beings are not half and half anything. As Mrs. (Betty) Slocombe used to say in “Are You Being Served”: I am unanimous in this!!
We human beings are like Jesus Christ as defined by the Council of Nicaea: fully Divine and fully Human. By which I mean, Jesus (according to the Church) can’t be fully Who He is said to be without being fully both – and nor can we be who we are without being both. I’m not going to quibble about the theological niceties involved. I just make the point that our Humanity inhabits both eternity and time as part of the Reality of who we are. If we inhabit Time as animals, we also inhabit the “eternal world” as animals.
I don’t think that it helps in any way to think of ourselves as somehow essentially divided. We are a unity. When we know this, that is when we can live fully and authentically.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Forever on Thanksgiving Day
The heart will find the pathway home.
~Wilbur D. Nesbit
I must have read 100 quotes about Thanksgiving. This one spoke to me.
“The heart will find it’s pathway home.”
I have spent my Life, since the age of 19, anchored in the Christian Eucharist. The “Holy Eucharist” is the central act of worship of the Christian Church. The Bible (at least John’s Gospel) records that Jesus called his disciples together on the night before He died, to celebrate the Passover together – that profound meal recalling the fleeing of Israel from slavery into Freedom. In a Mystery incomprehensible to human Reason, but not at all to human intuition, Jesus tells His followers that, if they “eat His Body and drink His Blood”, they will find “eternal Life”.
Look at it symbolically. Jesus was saying to them: “Share this symbolic meal, and in doing so, you will “find the pathway home”.
And what is that? What is that Pathway? Simply put, it is – according to the Gospel – the path of Love. That Path, once entered upon, becomes the Journey of a lifetime. It leads humanity – you and me - “Home”.
I have thought today about the Path to Home. About the path as Thanksgiving. And it make sense. I offer Thanks for Service, which my life as a priest has been, like it or not; my vocation has guided me away from myself and towards caring about others; it redeemed my selfish nature. I offer Thanks for all the searching human beings I have met; they have illuminated for me this shaky path we are all traveling – and reminded me how much we depend on each other. I offer Thanks for “spiritual” leaders, people of Simplicity and Peace and Laughter, who have reminded me to make Wonder the heart of Living. I offer Thanks for “those instances in which our assured judgment has been proved wrong”, as Fr. James Huntington OHC said; his words have taught me to let go of things that hinder me from forging ahead with Life. I offer Thanks to Jesus that He so brilliantly spoke those parables which revealed the heart of Life. And I offer Thanks for Friends – especially friends who became family; what a blessing a true friend is! I’m blessed to have many.
I am most thankful that I have been shown the “Pathway Home”. It is embracing the present moment, pouring into it everything one has, loving the World, rejoicing that I am a part of it, receiving every gift it offers in such profligacy, giving back when one can.
Today, a dear friend invited me to share in, to keep vigil at, the imminent death to this Life of his beloved mother. Of all the things I’ve most cherished as a priest, it has been the invitation to share in the moments of engaging with the Mystery of Life and Death.
No one who had anything to do with the instigation of Thanksgiving Day in American life could possibly have realized what they were setting in motion! We may think of Pilgrims and all that stuff. But all that has been transfigured into a celebration of Being Alive, and of all the things which make Life possible.
What greater blessing could we have as a human being than to help each other to Live?
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent
and omnipotent God would have designedly
created parasitic wasps with the express intention
of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.
Charles Darwin. On this date, 1859, “On the Origin
of Species” was published
I don’t have much to say. Darwin makes obvious sense, at least to me and my intuitive experience of God. No God Who is called Love would “organize” Nature in this way. I think of Evolution like any emanation of Life: it will develop as it is directed by the demands of Life ….. and never will Divine Love be absent from it, regardless of what happens. If there is any prime message in the Gospel, it is this: “God” does not manipulate; “God” always lifts up Life. There is no development of Life that can evade God’s Blessing and Presence.
This is the Eve of Thanksgiving. What, in the “old days” in the monastic life, we would have called (if there had been such a feast; and perhaps the Feast of Corpus Christi or perhaps even Maundy Thursday and the Feast of the Institution of the Holy Eucharist” would qualify) “First Vespers of the Solemnity of Thanksgiving”.
Life blossoms and changes as Life requires, as the human community opts for fullness and abundance in Charity and Love.
I have experienced it in my Life, as I hope you have.
p.s. Darwin also said:
At some future period, not very distant as
measured by centuries, the civilized races
of man will almost certainly exterminate,
and replace the savage races throughout the world.
I understand this to mean that, all human beings being capable of Evil, we will evolve. That we will learn to choose Good over Evil. May we be able to give Thanks for this in our own day!
Monday, November 22, 2010
To live is so startling it leaves
little time for anything else.
Emily Dickinson, poet
Read this and you will know without fail where the story in Genesis came from, about Adam and Eve being kicked out of the Garden and being condemned to work – horrors! – to keep body and soul together. It’s what is called an “etiological” story, that is, a story that has been concocted to explain some “mystery” of human life. Why must we work so hard to provide the wherewithal to live?? People have asked this question since the beginning of time.
Emily didn’t have to work to survive, as far as I know. Except perhaps for her artistic soul to survive. It recently appears that she might have suffered from a chronic illness, like epilepsy; so she could stay home ….. and write! And she did.
But in her writing, we see time and time again her passion for Life. We see her “startled-ness” at Life, at how amazing Life was. She had little time for anything else, so awing was Life.
I want to be like Emily! I want to develop even more than I have now a nature that is endlessly entranced and delighted and charmed by Life.
I’ve had my share of the drudgery of work. But I’ve been fortunate to have had a good deal of work that allowed me to experience the wonder that Life can reveal: delightful human beings and exquisite things and places and a huge amount of Beauty. And “retirement”, even with a small pension, has expanded it.
How I have been blessed! Particularly with an appreciation of Simplicity, and the ability to let go of things.
I wish it for you all. A Life that is startling.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States;
he was assassinated on this date, in Dallas, 1963
John Kennedy was no goody-goody. He was not, in my view, a great statesman. But he is an icon of the 60’s. He was young, rich, charismatic, and a young president of the World’s (supposedly) most powerful nation. He was apparently, according to many contemporary and later commentators, an iconic image of the times. As a Canadian boy of 17, I stayed home from school (how I don’t know) and was glued to the TV through 3 days of the whole thing (all in black & white, on the CBC).
At the time, I think the thing that most stunned me was that such a thing could happen in America; it seemed so ….. uncivilized! And now, the thing that strikes me the most is how that moment transcended all politics – as sleazy then as now – and was such a personal human drama. John Kennedy was us all, struck down at the prime of Life ….. and I realize now how that can happen to any of us, no matter how “safe” or “protected”, even living in the richest country in the World. It makes me deeply aware that we Americans think we are so powerful ….. but we are so vulnerable on so many levels, despite our privileges. This is the “spiritual” affect of that day 47 years ago.
Kids all around the World today kill themselves because they are not approved of by their “peers”. Because they don’t meet the social standard. We’ve had a recent spate of Gay teens killing themselves. Straight bullied kids off themselves too. American society has little tolerance for “non-conformists”. American men run scared if they are not seen as gun-toting, sports-crazed, anti-queer “guys” who demean women. And God forbid if any of us seek a non-militarized society and don’t equate war-fever and World dominance with Patriotism.
John Kennedy’s words apply to our Western culture. But they also apply to the inner life. It is applicable to Religion today around the World. One must think with the majority, goose-step in line, or one is suspect, often persecuted. That’s what Jesus warned about when He said to his followers, “You will be persecuted for My sake”. Because Jesus did NOT conform; he WAS free; He GREW in Holiness and Humanity. And He threatened the Hell out of people.
But Kennedy is right. “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy or Growth.” All society and all religion degenerates easily into a tool of the slavery and the stunting of the Soul.
“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.”
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
At the end of the day, love and compassion will win.
Terry Waite, hostage envoy; he was freed on
this date in 1991, after 1763 days in captivity.
Life is strange, isn’t it? We just never know the truth about a lot if not most of things. Terry Waite went as an envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury (Robert Runcie) several times, managing to save the lives of several Middle East hostages. In 1987, he was abducted by Islamist terrorists in Lebanon, and finally released almost five years later. “To some he remained a saintly and courageous figure ….. But to others, notably including journalists specializing in Middle East affairs, he was a muddle-headed meddler and publicity-seeker who allowed himself to be used by Oliver North and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Waite allegedly took credit for hostage releases that had almost everything to do with arms deals and little to do with his efforts. To those critics he was a man who defied his church's wishes for his own vainglory and who put his family on the rack to feed his own hunger for headlines.” [ Answer.com.] In his writings later, he was vague about his connections with the CIA.
I would like to believe that what Terry Waite said about the triumph of love and compassion is true. It would be comforting to believe this, wouldn’t it? I have to say that experience and history do not seem to prove him right. Such a belief has little to do, I think, with “the facts”, with Reality.
However, the belief that love and compassion ultimately will win out is a tool of a life of Hope. In the same category as things like “Justice will be done”, and “After death we will be in Heaven with God”. And dare I say, the Beatitudes. It doesn’t really matter whether these things ultimately come to pass. What matters is how they guide our Life ….. for the here and now.
I don’t really want a Reward “after” for being Compassionate or Loving or Just or “poor in spirit” or a Peacemaker or merciful or whatever.
I want them to make me a “friend of God” ….. and to make a difference right now, day by day, in a World that can be so harrowing. Nothing makes me shudder so much as our inhumanity.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
It's odd that you can get so anesthetized by
your own pain or your own problem that you
don't quite fully share the hell of someone
close to you.
Claudia Alta Taylor; on this date, 1934, she
married Lyndon B. Johnson; she was known
as “Lady Bird”.
I’m not sure what Lady Bird meant; or what in her experience prompted this comment. My personal experience has been that indeed we do get so anesthetized by our own pain that we don’t – and can’t – share the hell of someone close to us ….. or of the World, or of the Human Community. It makes perfect sense to me. Also, I think it’s the height of understatement to say “can’t quite”. When we get consumed by our own pain, we usually can’t relate to another’s at all!
I know that I go on about valuing ourselves, taking care of ourselves, rejecting abuse, loving ourselves. That’s hyperbole to make the point, which is that we are profoundly inhibited in loving, caring, being generous to others when we neglect ourselves.
I think that the whole human community is at a high level of pain these days – often physical, certainly emotional, psychological, “spiritual”. I hope it is to some good purpose, namely that we will be startled into an awareness of the other-inflicted and the self-inflicted pain on all levels and Wake Up. That we will realize how sick we are, and take the steps to stop and reverse it. That we will start valuing each other and caring about each other, start reducing the stress and the hate and begin to honour and respect each other – and put away the religious and ethnic and cultural biases which enslave us ….. is killing us.
Yes, it’s important, critical, to value ourselves. Because this frees us to SEE the pain of those around us. It screams at us out of all the media and the music and the art and the media violence.
Once we begin to see the immense pain we are all in, to see the isolation and the separation and the fear, perhaps we will be aroused, and begin to “share the hell”.
It will make a better and happier World.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Setting my mind on a musical instrument was like
falling in love. All the world seemed bright and changed.
W. C. Handy, African-American composer; known as the
“Father of the Blues”; son of emancipated slaves; he was
born on this date, 1873, in Alabama (died 1958, in Harlem)
The Central Coast has been at its best for the last several days – warm and sunny and clear. Dennis and I were driving north on 101 from Santa Barbara late this afternoon. About 5pm, we were skirting the Pacific, on that fabulous run by El Capitan, Refugio, and Gaviota Beach, headed for the tunnel. The sky was ….. well, sky-blue and utterly cloudless. A shining glittering golden path led from the beach out to the straight line of the horizon. Just above it hung Sol, our life-giving star, a huge, round perfect disk of gold. It took my breath away. My mind was held in awe by the taken-for granted fact that it was 93 million miles away and looked a mile; that from that immense distance it had the power to warm and light and give life to the Earth in its cold dark orbit where no other star shines.
“All the world seemed bright and changed”!
These days, I find myself discouraged by the state of the Earth, its hunger, war, greed, suffering. I try not to focus on it, but it seeps into me and takes me over unconsciously. But there this afternoon was a free gift from the Universe! Once again, I fell in love with Life and Being and exquisite Beauty and Mystery.
For W. C. Handy, it was setting his mind on a musical instrument that would lead him to his place as “Father of the Blues”. For me, long ago now, it was setting my heart on holiness. Its light has not dimmed, despite the only small steps of advance.
My soul is quiet and at peace tonight.
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned
with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, "As
for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone
will be left upon another; all will be thrown down." ….. You will be
betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and
they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because
of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance
you will gain your souls."
Luke 21 (the Gospel reading (RCL) for Sunday, November 14, 2010
I see this as a parable about searching for, finding, and claiming one’s “own Christ”. I see it as a wise perspective on the Journey that is Life, and on each of us taking and shaping and “surrendering” to that Journey. For those familiar with the Bible, you will recall that when Jesus spoke another time about “destroying the Temple” and that in three days He would rebuild it, the Evangelist adds a kind of post-resurrection hind-sight footnote, stating that Jesus was talking about His body.
One central aspect of the Christian Myth/Message is Incarnation: God becoming Human. This is true of many other faiths/religions as well: the Divine takes human form and “dwells among us”. The import of this is that human beings become fully human – from “mere dust” to a “living being” – when they become fully conscious of/to the indwelling Divine. It’s from this that I derive the mystical idea that Jesus is talking about our human Journey to fullness of Being.
The parable makes it clear, first, that our Full Humanity is a beautiful thing: “adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God”; and second, that it is hard to stay focused on this transformation! It’s hard work! There are days when it all comes crashing down. There are days that can be or seem full of betrayal, sometimes by the actions of others, sometimes even by our own self-betrayal. It could be very discouraging!
But Jesus says that “God”, that that Great Mystery that is the source of all Being, is “on our side”! That Existence is tilted in our favour. That we are meant to be slowing but surely transfigured into Fullness. That we will get there: “By your endurance you will gain your souls.” And by “endurance”, I don’t think He means just “standing in place” – though that will certainly at times be part of it. He means doing our active best to know and seek our evolution into God.
I hope today and every day has some measure of this for each of us.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
The sun, with all those planets revolving around it
and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes
as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.
Is it any wonder that “our” Sun, Old Sol, was for all the millennia of human existence regarded as a Deity?? And still is, by some cultures. The Sun is a vibrant metaphor for that great Mystery from which the great Mystery of Life blossoms. Strange thing is, I have moved away in the past few years from an anthropomorphic, “personal” image of God, finding a deep richness and depth in seeing God as the astonishing brilliant pulse of all Being. But ….. in this I have strangely found a deeper Intimacy.
I personally think that “God” is ultimately Life and Being and Existence and Unknowing. God is equally given to us all. Whoever we are, and however “unique”, we exist by the same Mystery.
Because this is true, each living thing is equal, and is drenched with whatever abundance of Being we need. It matters not if we are an amoeba or the biggest Sun in the Universe.
I love to rest quietly in connection with the Unknown Mystery of Being. But I also like to feel that warming Sun ripening the Me that is just one of the bunches of grapes, and knowing that I am as important and worthy of the ripening effort as anyone or anything else!
You are too!
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
If you dedicate yourself to service, the doors will open.
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan
The doors will open, to ………. what???
This “line” has been held up before the human race by religionists and philosophers for ages. It says, You will be happy if you don’t put yourself first, perhaps if you don’t think of yourself at all, if you just love other people and spend your Life helping others meet their needs, be “humble”. God will love you for behaving this way and will reward you in Heaven – not in this Earthly Life because the point of this Earthly Life is to humiliate the Self so it’s clear that you are clear that you can’t “deserve” the love of the Divine One.
I think this is utter masochistic spiritual crap.
I believe that we can never authentically begin to serve others until we have been awakened to Belovedness. Oh, many people “serve” others, for various reasons. Because we “must”. Because it’s taught us. Because we think that serving others means denying ourselves. We may all begin this way – though I have been blessed to know some Great Souls who transcended this at an early stage. Such “service” may assist others, but it is not true Service. It is condescension, and it dangerous to our souls.
Authentic service flowers when we know that the Other is Us; when we serve because what we offer enhances the humanity of our Self and the Other; it can’t be otherwise. Serving another out of a sense of serving oneself reveals that we have understood Compassion and the Unity of all things Holy.
Serve by all means. But remember it is an invitation to the transformation of yourself.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
In the name of the Bee--
And of the Butterfly—
And of the Breeze--Amen
Lovely Emily. She was a great, seminal theologian! In my view anyway. We desperately need more of her kind.
OK. I’ll admit: the “Organization” we call the “Church” probably needs a few rules to be tidy. Frankly, I think we have far too many. And far too many of them are counter to what I think God wants from us. It’s a rather dubious assumption that She wanted us to organize an “Institution”. Now, here I suppose I could get in trouble ….. being an ordained priest in the Organization! However, I’m happy to agree that a LITTLE organization is probably useful so we can publically witness to the joy of the Gospel. But I’m not at all sure that organizing ourselves to look like a vestige of the Roman Empire – complete with rich Byzantine clothing, as MUCH as I love wearing them, what healthy Gay man wouldn’t! – is really likely to make us effective as agents in transforming the World into a Peaceable Kingdom. All that stuff HAS to be perifipheral.
Let’s face it: the Trinity is at best a charming icon of the busy activity of Love, as it generates, spreads, and expresses itself in the Human Community. At worst: it becomes a vicious instrument in separating human beings from each other in that Peaceable Kingdom. What a dilemma!
So, bless Saint Emily Dickinson! She reminds us, in her utterly charming Invocation, that the World is infused with the Divine Consciousness. Just pay attention to Life, she says. Cherish it; surrender to it. Remember you are a part of it. Live it, in abandonment, with whimsicality and with delight.
The World needs us to be such people.
Go to it Gang!
Monday, November 8, 2010
Religion isn’t about believing things.
It's ethical alchemy.
It’s about behaving in a way that changes you, that
gives you intimations of holiness and sacredness.
Karen Armstrong, “alchemist” extraordinaire
For a very long time now, I’ve said that “religion” is the Practice which binds us to our core commitments, our hopes, our fundamental Beliefs about Life. And I’m with Karen: our “beliefs” are the vision we have formed about Life, about how to live It. Our “beliefs” are not giving assent to theological statements dictated by religious institutions (like “creeds”) which make us “right” or “closer to God” than others.
We human beings, all of us, whether we like it or not, are all on a Journey. We are all seeking meaning for Life and for our own individual lives. Like any Journey, it has its dangers and its risks, with, of course, its Bliss. Like any Journey, it requires careful planning to be accomplished.
Like the great alchemists, we are attempting to make “gold out of base metal”. That is not to denigrate our human nature! Our Religion is that which we do, think, say which hold us to that Path which will faithfully guide us Home. That Practice gives us “intimations of holiness and sacredness”.
We must choose our “Religion” well, my friends. We are not seeking to be “right”. We are seeking to be transfigured as Love Incarnate.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
We human beings are tuned such that we
crave great melody and great lyrics. And if
somebody writes a great song, it's timeless
that we as humans are going to feel something
for that and there's going to be a real appreciation.
Art Garfunkel, Musician, and once half of Simon
& Garfunkel; born on this date, 1941; he’s 69!
I loved EVERYTHING they sang!
I could list metaphorical “great” throughout the ages – at least in my aesthetic: Lascaux; Chinese cranes; Peruvian gold; pyramids; Monteverdi; Gregorian chant (sung the way I like it sung!); Cellini; Bruch; Murillo; Strauss (The Four Last Songs); Goya; Canaletto; Monet; Rupert Brooke; John Keats; Gordon Lightfoot; Loreen McKenna. I could go on. All these make me feel One with the Beauty of Being ….. i.e., with the Mystery of “God” and Humanity.
I think that a worthy goal for each of us is to be a “great song”. A Old Crone friend of mine at whose ordination I preached and “crowned” her with the title of Crone said to me the other day, “I love getting your Reflections; they are so YOU!”.
Just be YOU. Just be You! It will bless and sweeten the World!
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
A guy is a lump like a doughnut. So, first you
gotta get rid of all the stuff his mom did to him.
And then you gotta get rid of all that macho crap
that they pick up from beer commercials. And
then there's my personal favorite: the male ego.
Roseanne Barr, comedienne, writer, TV producer,
and director; she was born on this date, 1952, in
Salt Like City, to a working-class Jewish family.
Roseanne was pretty “rough-edged” when I first saw her on the TV. I didn’t think that she was a very good actress. But that didn’t matter. What I liked was what she was saying. To me, it had to do with Reality. That is: When are we ever going to see that so many of the problems of American society stem from the inferiorization of Women?? And I must point out again: we do this because of the peculiar twisted dynamics of American Christian religion.
What I want to comment on, from a “spiritual” point of view, is the infantilization of men ….. mostly of heterosexual men. Most Gay men I know have, I think, lost the gene that makes them the kind of men that Roseanne is talking about!. They became themselves because they learned to reject what their mother’s unconsciously tried to project upon them; they don’t “listen” to beer commercials even if they slug down beer; and their Ego is more biologically balanced. If this sounds a little self-serving, I’m vaguely sorry guys!
What Roseanne is saying is that heterosexual men are in desperate need of Liberation. She is right. Men have been emasculated in our culture. They think that to “be” men they have to be a version of Neanderthal killers. I suggest we remember all the great men of History. They may, because of their era, have had to be soldiers. But “soldiering” was a distraction. They were primarily poets, artists, philosophers, academics. This was their true masculine expression.
I say: let’s have more.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Ananda, having arranged one set of the
golden robes on the body of the Lord,
observed that against the Lord’s body it
appeared dulled. And he said, “It is won-
derful, Lord, it is marvelous how clear
and bright the Lord’s skin appears! It looks
even brighter than the golden robes in which
it is clothed.”
Digha Nikaya 16.4.37
Behold the lilies of the fields – clothed more beautifully than great kings.
Nothing can enhance the intrinsic beauty of the human person fully transfigured. The Christ Himself, the Enlightened One the Buddha Himself – they are the reflection of the greatest beauty of you and of me. No exterior beautification can outshine a human being lit from within by the Light of the Universe, by Divine Compassion.
See your naked beauty. Be it.