Sunday, February 28, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, March 1, 2010

To Speak of Woe that is in Marriage

"It is the future generation that presses into being by means of
these exuberant feelings and supersensible soap bubbles of ours."
- Schopenhauer

"The hot night makes us keep our bedroom windows open.
Our magnolia blossoms. Life begins to happen.
My hopped up husband drops his home disputes,
and hits the streets to cruise for prostitutes,
free-lancing out along the razor’s edge.
This screwball might kill his wife, then take the pledge.
Oh the monotonous meanness of his lust. . .
It's the injustice . . . he is so unjust--
whiskey-blind, swaggering home at five.
My only thought is how to keep alive.
What makes him tick? Each night now I tie
ten dollars and his car key to my thigh. . . .
Gored by the climacteric of his want,
he stalls above me like an elephant."

Robert Lowell, American poet, born on this
date, 1917, in (of course) Boston

Whew! I had no idea that Robert Lowell, that Brahmin of that famous Boston clan, was such a tough poet! And this is a tough poem! After a Sunday thinking about “Jerusalem” as the symbol of that “place” where God and God’s people live together in an unbreakable relationship of Love , and thinking of how Religion has so often equated marriage with this symbol, this poem of the mid-20th century powerfully challenges us! (Forget the Schopenhauer quote: I can’t figure it out either!)

But, I think a lot about marriage these days. Especially as Dennis and I are not allowed to get married (except spiritually, which we are, and which is most important) given the last referendum vote by the good people of California. Given the fact that at least 50% of all marriages in America end in divorce. Given the fact that marriage has long become a civil contract by which the government makes money, and married people gain many tax and other benefits. Given the fact that most “counseling” in preparation for marriage is useless. Given the fact many young people today don’t get married; just live together. Etc, etc.

Anyway: here’s my comment. Until men learn how to be decent human beings, see women as human beings rather than sex machines, come to an understanding that their lives will be greatly enhanced and blessed by marrying an equal, marriage will rot. As it should, IMHO.

But worry not (I know, I know, this is too long!) : we are, I think and hope, in a phase. Shakespeare shall prevail:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
Oh, no! it is an ever-fixéd mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come'
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Brian+ (offering but a point upon which to think)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, February 26, 2010

Adversity makes [persons], and prosperity makes monsters.

Victor Hugo, author, born on this date, 1802

In my understanding of Christianity (and I do wish I understood enough of another faith to be able to speak with authority!) , it is the love of prosperity that makes monsters. “Having things” is intrinsically not contrary to the Christian Life. What is contrary is worshiping either – that is, worshipping an idol. Worshipping an “idol” simple means that we have been deceived as to what is worthy of value and what is not.

I’ve read a lot of Hugo. I think he was a wise man. “Prosperity makes monsters.” How true in America and other “wealthy” parts of the World today – which includes the rich in horrifyingly poor countries. Have you noticed where we are going in America after our near financial collapse? Right back to the same old ideas and principles which brought about our near destruction. The answer, alas, was not to help us re-vision our lifestyle or our vales; it was to get us back to the same destructive and dehumanizing situation. I find it very very sad.

“Prosperity” has made monsters of all our politicians. And of many of us. You can’t be in our government unless you are (a) rich) or (b) supported by the rich and powerful, who are, by definition, controlling and manipulative and very often without compassion, amoral and and cruel. We now have a political party which ingloriously represents this idolatry of “Prosperity”. At least the obvious is obvious.

The Gospel Message is reported once to have said, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”. (The Letter to the Galatians, 6:2). This is what Jesus meant by “loving one another”. Jesus warned against not bearing one another’s burdens and the consequences of it. We are seeing it in every part of the World today. In a word: Fear.

“Sharing one anothers’ burdens” means making sure that we all have the basic necessities for Living - and that means spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, as well as physically. As long as one person is dying of hunger or a victim of religious hatred, we are failing.

Most of us can’t change the World. But we can do something within ourselves, and among those with whom we live.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, February 25, 2010

[Pius V’s] bull, Regnans in Excelsis, dated April 27, 1570 ….
declared Elizabeth I [of England] a heretic and released her subjects from
their allegiance to her. In response, Elizabeth, who had thus far
left Catholics alone, now actively started persecuting them.

History of Pope Pius V and Queen Elizabeth 1 of England

From my perspective in 2010, this seems utterly absurd! But, looked at from the contemporary history, we can see what’s happening, politically, theologically, etc. Seen from hindsight, one can only sigh and lament “the times”. Even more absurd, the Bull said that anyone who killed her would go immediately to Heaven. Does this sound lie the modern absurdities of suicide bombers [male] going to meet with their reward of 70 Virgins? Pul-eeze! (And: what about women suicide bombers???? What do they get?)

However, the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy and many Muslims and several other fundamentalist expressions of their Faiths continue to act out of an hopelessly primitive context. What bothers me is that any sensible people pay any attention to them! It really does diminish my desire to think of human culture as evolving to a deeper more human dimension!

NO RELIGION HAS THE WHOLE “TRUTH”. All parts of the human community have invented gods/goddesses in a process of trying to understand our meaning, our purpose. Religions may align themselves with political and cultural agenda, but Faith is beyond such venial manipulation.

Look Friends: it is my unshakeable belief that “Jesus” is a universal symbol for our common community as human beings living in the power of Love.

“Those who have ears, let them hear”.

Or we are doomed.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, February 24, 2010

God the Father, the supreme Architect, had already
built this cosmic home we behold, the most sacred
temple of His godhead, by the laws of His mysterious

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Italian philosopher &
scholar, born on this date, 1463, in Mirandola, near Modena

“….. by the laws of His Mysterious wisdom”. Now, there’s an interesting phrase! Sounds like a 15th C intuition of Darwin to me.

What is most interesting to me is the thought that the Earth/Creation is the “Home of God”. And that this Earth screams the Holy Presence of God. St. Paul thought so. He said clearly that no one, contemplating the Universe, could miss the Divine presence.

From an “anthropological” perspective, I agree. Right now, I can hear the music of Handel resounding in my head – “The heavens declare the glory of God”! For a very long time, I have equated our trashing of the environment with the spoiling of “God’s Body”.

God’s Wisdom is indeed “mysterious”. Bottom line, we know nothing about God – as the great mystics throughout the ages have said. Some of them even called God “Nothing”. But I have to confess that, apart from great Liturgy (rare as it is), I have experienced God most vividly in the stunning beauty of the Earth. Oh could I expatiate on those countless moments!! Above all things – except perhaps for wildly unselfish acts of love – “God” has been manifested in the extravagant beauty of the Earth.

Dennis and I watched the Ice Plant flowers unfold in the morning sun in our little garden the other day. I can honestly say, those flowers rank higher than any philosophy or theology.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”


Monday, February 22, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A monk who is skilled in concentration
can cut the Himalayas in two.

Anguttara Nikaya 6:24 [Buddhist]

I very often feel that we live in an era (at least in the West) where we have very little control. My perception is that this is the foundation of so much of the deep anxiety, often unconscious, that Westerners experience. And one thing I have been aware of for many years now: almost no Christian denomination these days teaches a spirituality with any power. Christian churches and “hierarchies” have become caught up in, have been co-opted by, worldly power and by the intent to control persons in a sterile “moral” setting. Why is it that after millennia, hierarchs have not learned that they are on a fool’s quest??

Jesus said (I am paraphrasing) that if one had faith, one could move mountains. I do not think He was speaking “literally”. Jesus would not be interested in showing someone hw to move a physical mountain; that’s just a stunt, with no mystical meaning to it, as well as no meaning for living one’s Life in society.

Whether mountains of the Gospel or the specific Himalayas of the Buddha, they stand for “obstacle” – things that stand in the way of becoming fully human in the imago dei. By which is meant, we are all destined to the highest manifestation of what the most holy imagination can conceive of as “human”. And ….. each of us contributes to the definition of the nature of that “manifestation”.

Roadblocks to Being are thrown up by Life every second of every day. That is the way Life is! That’s what makes it exciting. Every day we arise, we arise into an arena where we are confronted by “ravenous beasts”. They represent Evil, “false gods”, Deception, a host of powers seeking to drag or lull us into an indolent way. Our anchoring in the practice of Holy Living allows us to shake these succubae off!

Spiritual Truth is simple. It is easy to learn, if not so easy to apply. The principles are unshakably sound. May we be granted gifted Teachers and Livers of these Principles. And the courage to apply then in our daily lives. If we are faithful, the very “Himalayas” – every obstacle to Servanthood - will be cut in twain like the veil of the Temple, and we will unfold as a servant of Christ’s love in the World.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, February 22, 2010


It's little I care what path I take,
And where it leads it's little I care;
But out of this house, lest my heart break,
I must go, and off somewhere.

It's little I know what's in my heart,
What's in my mind it's little I know,
But there's that in me must up and start,
And it's little I care where my feet go.

I wish I could walk for a day and a night,
And find me at dawn in a desolate place
With never the rut of a road in sight,
Nor the roof of a house, nor the eyes of a face.

I wish I could walk till my blood should spout,
And drop me, never to stir again,
On a shore that is wide, for the tide is out,
And the weedy rocks are bare to the rain.

But dump or dock, where the path I take
Brings up, it's little enough I care:
And it's little I'd mind the fuss they'll make,
Huddled dead in a ditch somewhere.

'Is something the matter, dear,' she said,
'That you sit at your work so silently?'
'No, mother, no, 'twas a knot in my thread.
There goes the kettle, I'll make the tea.'

Edna St. Vincent Millay, poet, born on
this date, 1892, in Rockland, Maine

As Life wonderfully is, I was with dear friends last year travelling about NY State from opera to opera. And we chanced upon Austerlitz NY and were thrilled to find the home of Edna St. Vincent Millay. We immediately decided to go there – and we had a lovely time roaming the grounds of her home, and visiting with the curator of the “monument”. Here’s the sign we saw at the Post Office, and my dear dear friend Gilly will not mind her photo shared, taken in Ms. Millay’s garden!

The poem is long. But perfect. It reminds us of how much of the Truth, and our pain, about ourselves we hide. Don’t. This is Lent for Christians – but for all of us Life demands, for authenticity, we “own up”. Make the tea – but be honest with yourself.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, February 20, 2010
[ Lent I in the Christian Kalendar ]

Jesus ….. was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,
where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.

The Gospel called Luke, Chap 4 [for Lent 1 C_RCL]

[ Here is the link for the Readings - ]

How are we seduced? That’s the issue on this First Sunday of Lent. Seduced from what? Seduced from living our lives as a “child” (not a good term, in my opinion, with all it’s both negative and positive connotations for us) of the God of Compassion and Unconditional Love, Justice and Mercy.

[ I’m not interested in what more or less degree you think this story falls, from “literal” or “metaphorical”; I’m interested in what it means for us living our lives today.]

What are the “temptations? Well :

1. Ignoring what sustains Life beyond sustaining the physical being. (Changing stones into bread)
2. Forgetting what God, and our lives, are essentially about. Our lives are not about unholy power and praise, and the acquiring of them (The kingdoms of the World)
3. Misunderstanding God. God is not a magician, an intervener in the natural order of things, someone who abrogates our freedom, or the requirement to exercise our human gifts. (Testing God)

Lent, as a liturgical season, is a focused time of paying attention to those things that seduce us away from living our lives as a compassionate, loving, merciful, kind, generous, thankful human being. It also reminds us that this is our daily journey.

Jesus was on a long retreat, fasting and praying. This reminds us to take focused time to think and learn. The “devil’s” presence to Jesus in his time of deep prayer reminds us that Temptation becomes more vivid in such times. The “angels” remind us that God is with us, near to us, sustaining us, helping us to reject false wisdom. Remember: Jesus was deeply anchored in His Scriptures and faith practice.

The principle warning here is : “Stay Grounded”.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, February19, 2010

….. most of us would rather love than be loved. Almost everyone
wants to be the lover. And the curt truth is that, in a deep secret
way, the state of being beloved is intolerable to many. The beloved
fears and hates the lover, and with the best of reasons. For the lover
is forever trying to strip bare his beloved. The lover craves any possible
relation with the beloved, even if this experience can cause him only pain.

Carson McCullers, author, born on this date, 1917, in Columbus, GA.
(She died at 50.) I don’t know is she said this, or a character in one of
her novels.

A rather dire view of Love, I think, and of Lovers. Which makes me think that this is something said of one of McCuller’s characters. I quite disagree that a true lover is “forever trying to strip bare his beloved”. In fact, a true Lover would never do such a thing. And as for craving “any possible relation with the beloved” – no, this is not a true Lover. Only a Lover deeply absorbed in his own Ego would want this. A true Lover is deeply self-aware, and deeply focused on the Beloved, and would do nothing to violate the Beloved.

It is indeed harder though, I think, to be the Beloved than the Lover. I do think that most of us human beings struggle with a sense of unworthiness. With some it is right up front – Peter the Apostle, for instance (“Go from me Lord, for I am a sinful man”). With others, it is hidden or denied – but that sense of unworthiness is very often at work behind the scenes. Such a person finds it hard to express their love, for fear that the beloved will somehow see the Lover’s inadequacy and reject them. It is the rare person who is confident, respects himself, knows herself well, and accepts himself as (s)he is.

The Judeo-Christian God, in the best theology, is made in the image of the fully confident, self-respecting, fully self-knowing, self-accepting being. This God embodies the person we want to be, both as Lover and Beloved. When we falter, we can turn to this God, know how to Love and how to accept Love.

I feel that I was blessed with a grace to know “true love”. I can smell false love a mile away. I am not vulnerable to it. I think this came from knowing God, and sensing how I was God’s beloved and not sensing any vulnerability, no sense that I would be “stripped bare”, abused, mistreated.

I do not understand the Journey, or really how I entered upon it. But I am grateful.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, February 18, 2010

God can be realized through all paths. All religions are true.
The important thing is to reach the roof. You can reach it by
stone stairs or by wooden stairs or by bamboo steps or by a

Ramakrishna, Hindu/universal “saint”, born on this
date, 1836, in a rural village outside of Calcutta

“True”. It’s an elusive word. Can anyone really define “True”? I’ve thought about this for decades. Is there such a single thing as “true”, or is it something to be only approached, by various ways to the “roof”?

“Roof” is a powerful metaphor for “union with God”, and for “the unity with all existence”. (See Ramakrishna’s short biography at ) Ramakrishna said that he knew both. I’ve had that experience. It isn’t, I think, a big deal, something open only to a few. I remember standing on a huge rock that stuck out into “space” high up in the Los Padres National Forest one retreat day when I was at Mt. Calvary Monastery in Santa Barbara. The sun was warm. The air was scented with sage. My eyes were charmed with California poppies. The sea glittered and danced far below me. The warm wind was flowing past me – and I thought of, “you do not know where the wind comes from or where it is going; so it is with the Spirit”. I took off all my clothes, sat on the warm rock, closed my eyes – and felt myself become one with Existence, with “God”.

We are indeed beckoned to the roof. It’s our destiny. We can call it what we want: “union with God”, merging with Being, comfortable in the Universe, whatever.

No religion is “truth”. It only participates in Truth. Offers its own particular rope or stair. Some may speak to us, some not. It depends on many things, internal and external. I now believe it is the subtle work of Evil at work in the human mind and spirit that sets one religion in hate and arrogance and pride against another.

If our chosen path, however singular or eclectic, makes us see all things as part of ourselves and demands our honour, it is “true”.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The sun shines down, and its image reflects in a thousand
different pots filled with water. The reflections are many,
but they are each reflecting the same sun. Similarly, when
we come to know who we truly are, we will see ourselves in
all people.

Amma [ the “Hugging Saint” ]

“ ….. to know who we truly are.” Now there’s a task, a Journey! Some would say that we were made by a deity in the “image” of that deity, and our task is to find a way most perfectly to reflect that deity. Christianity mostly takes that view. Today for Christians is Ash Wednesday. This day with its liturgy, and the season of Lent which follows, is a way to “know who we truly are” – and therefore be free to reflect the God of Unconditional Love and Compassion.

I don’t think it works that way.

Rather, there are limitless ways “to know who we truly are”. Limitless places to look, seek, imagine, internal and external. Ultimately I think we choose the raw materials from which we create ourselves, religion being one that many have chosen. But religions, and the deities they propose, are things that human beings created. And they can all mislead. And we humans very often choose to suit our “needs”.

“Who we really are” can only be discovered by looking deep within, with as much clarity and honesty as possible. This requires, of course, the rejection of fear, of outside definition, requires deep self-love and respect.

It is up to us to choose the “tools” we use in this task. And ultimately each of us must decide what a human being is essentially meant to be like. If we chose rightly, “God” appears. But whatever we choose, that is what we will see in “all people”. Friend, or enemy? Sister, or stranger?

When others are enemies, strangers, “other”, we have chosen wrongly. We have mis-defined ourselves.

Time to re-walk the path. Till we “see ourselves in all people”, all One in Compassion.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, February 16, 2010

“All of nature is but the eternal garment of God."
Keep it clean and nicely ironed. Treat all creations
with respect. Nature is God’s fashion statement.
She has good taste. Try to model yourself after her.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, in Tan’ya, Chap. 2

I can hear you all thinking ….. Brian’s found some deconstructionist, feminist fringe rabbi to quote – and I bet he changed the pronouns!

Nope. 18th century. Besides, you should know better than to think that a modern feminist rabbi would even mention ironing! Why didn’t I come across this guy before?

The Creation is like the total sum – and perhaps even more – of all of us human beings. A kind of (if you will put aside all the negative connotations) universal Borg. We are all part of Mother Earth, Mother Galaxy, Mother Universe. And yes, Mother God.

We certainly aren’t taking the rabbi’s advice to heart these days, are we. Judging by what we are doing to the Earth and space, Respect has gone down the tubes – and it shows by the way that disrespect has cascaded down to everything else, and “up” to God. “God” today, as promulgated by many many individuals and religions often resembles a field of missile silos or a nuclear wasteland.

Think of the most beautiful place on earth you can think of. There is the message, the fashion statement God wants us to see. Think of yourself as an integral part of it. Let’s Model that, every day.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, February 15, 2010

I'm gonna love you, like nobody's loved you
Come rain or come shine
High as a mountain, deep as a river
Come rain or come shine
I guess when you met me
It was just one of those things
But don't you ever bet me
'cause I'm gonna be true if you let me
You're gonna love me, like nobody's loved me
Come rain or come shine
We'll be happy together, unhappy together
Now won't that be just fine
The days may be cloudy or sunny
We're in or out of the money
But I'm with you always
I'm with you rain or shine

Lyrics by Harold Arlen, born on
this date, 1905, in Buffalo NY

Well, we’ve just been though Valentine’s Day, in sentimental celebration of Romantic Love, with the cards and the flowers, and maybe even jewels if the ads got to you and you have a job or some dollars stashed away, etc etc. I don’t mind a little gushing sentimentality ….. now and then! As long as we don’t lose track of Real Love. What we might call, in honour of Harold, “Come Rain or Come Shine Love”.

Notice that Arlen says nothing in this one of his most beloved songs about material gifts, or about feeling good, or about flowers. He talks about “rain or shine”, about “happy together, unhappy together”, about “cloudy or sunny”. So does the Christian marriage liturgy in most denominations – about “richer or poorer”, “sickness or health”, etc. And in the Bible, God talks like that to His “Bride”, to Israel, telling them that there is nothing they can do that will cause Him to stop loving them.

Oh, it doesn’t mean that we won’t have fun, or joy, or feel wonderful a lot of the time, hopefully most of the time. It doesn’t mean that a marriage mightn’t fail in the end – it takes two to work. But it does mean that before two people marry, I think they must agree that when unhappiness or clouds or rains come, then too – and especially then – they will hold hands, and bring flowers, and say I love You, and have the courage and the faith and the wisdom to look deep and be honest and be open to the Mystery sometimes called Grace. And to becoming “new”.

“Rain or Shine”. It isn’t a prison. And it can’t be imposed, only accepted. It’s a tool to help two fragile people get beyond the raw patches of hurt feelings to the amazing experience of knowing what it means to be really loved. That feeling trumps all!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Rt. Rev. Barbara Clementine Harris, consecrated first
woman bishop in the Anglican Communion, as Suffragan
of Massachusetts, on this date, 1989

It was a glorious liturgy! I was the Rector of a parish in Providence RI, and went with several other clergy to Barbara’s consecration. I had been a supporter of the ordination of women to the priesthood from the get-go. And I wasn’t about to miss this great step! There were many glorious moments in the service. One terrific moment, which I could see fully as I was sitting high up, was the large number of bishops circled around her and the Presiding Bishop laying on hands for the consecration.

But the one I remember the best came as the Presiding Bishop turned to all of us in the congregation and asked:

Is it your will that we ordain Barbara a bishop?

And the huge roar came back from the thousands of us gathered there:

IT IS !!

And as I remember it, there were long moments of clapping and cheering!! A glorious moment. I was deeply moved, and deeply inspired, and grateful for the Episcopal Church.

There are many people being denied equality or oppressed or mistreated in many ways. Women are near or at the top of the list. Thousands raped in the Congo. Many killed by their families for perceived “dishnouring” of their families. Many mutilated to sexually satisfy men. Millions refused education.

Barbara’s consecration reminds us all that there is a lot more to do.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, February 10, 2010

“A valiant standardbearer of liberty and humanity and compassion”. “An exemplar of great manly love.” So say words on Paul Monette’s grave plaque. Paul died on this day, 1995, of the complications of AIDS. Well I remember reading in 1988 the book he wrote, “Borrowed Time”, chronicling the fight against and death of his partner Roger Horwitz from AIDS. It deeply touched me, and it shaped my humanity and personhood. I wrote to him, and he responded. In 1992, he won the National Book Award for non-faiction with his autobiography, “Becoming a Man”.

The Teabaggers and their ilk are trying yet again to raise racism and homophobia in America. Alas, they seem to have many allies. I will never see them as patriots, as real Americans. Paul is one of my heroes. Doing his best, in the face of tremendous rejection, to be a “valiant standardbearer of liberty and humanity and compassion”. Paul is to me a true hero and patriot.

Today, I hear him speaking the motto on his gravestone: “Remember, love will see us through”. I’ll try my best to live that vision.

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise.

Alice Walker, artist, author, born on
this date, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia

In a way, to “expect nothing” is to expect Everything. And in a way, expecting nothing or everything is about being Free. Free to live completely. Not to be trapped or limited in the experience of Life. Free to be content with what we have. Understanding that most of the things we think we need to be happy we don’t. Free from envy. Free from a sense of deprivation. Open to the delight of surprises that come our way. Able to see what wonder and joy come to us from simple things.

A metaphor of this for me are birds. Seeing the Mew Gull on Morro Strand on a sunny Central Coast morning, or the Hutton’s Vireo that lives in the lemon tree outside my kitchen window. When I go birding, I may see nothing, or I may be wonderfully surprised. But I go open to whatever.

I would say that this is true about “God” – at least the God I relate to. “God” is the utter abundance of being alive. Once I learned that my spirit can be filled to overflowing by frugality, I was free. And content.

Expect nothing, or everything. But expect. It is amazing what can bring Peace and Joy.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, February 8, 2010

For sin is just this, what [humankind] cannot by
its very nature do with [its] whole being. It is
possible to silence the conflict in the soul, but it
is not possible to uproot it.
(Brackets mine, to be inclusive)

Martin Buber, German Jewish religious philosopher.
He was born on this date, 1878

But first: another quote from Buber.

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.

This has absolutely been true in my Life. As a Gay lad, I “fled” from Canada at age 21. On the basis of pure Intuition. To be a monk. In a community in which, without words, I knew that this community existed in which, as a Gay person, I could Become. (Have you heard of Gaydar? Take my word for it: it works!) It was a blessing. What is the message here? The message is: our Intuition can be trusted to lead us to the position where we can be Ourself. Where we can know the Freedom God wishes for us. This has been true for me since then and until my present situation: If you listen to your Intuition, it will lead you to Freedom.

Now: what I love about the other quote is this: it holds to a “high” doctrine of Humanity. It assumes that “Humanity” knows, in its deepest center, what will lead to its Destiny. I agree with that as a philosophical, theological, and emotional position.

Our present-day murders, suicide bombers, abortion clinic killers, and theological extremists have “silenced the conflict of the soul”. This is dangerous.

What I value about the initial quote is that it assumes a “high doctrine” of Humanity. It assumes that we are God-like. That we can choose to act in love for our fellow human beings. Even at the expense of our self-preservation. This is essentially “Christ-like” – which has nothing to do with Christianity per se, but with the universal longing for freedom from the power of sin and death to prevent us fulfilling from our calling as a human person.

For me, people like Judas and Hitler fall into the same category: they have “silenced the conflict of the soul”, but they have not “uprooted it”. Both Judas and Hitler committed suicide, because they came to understand the Truth. As Buber articulated, uprooting our true nature is impossible. We cannot ultimately alienate our true Selves. Should we come to understand that we have betrayed ourself, despair can lead to self-annihilation, literally or psychologically.

What a discipline! To examine every action in the light of this deepest truth of the soul!

Give it a try! We must do the best we can.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, Feb 6, 2010

[Jesus] said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down
your nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we have worked
all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let
down the nets." When they had done this, they caught so many fish
that their nets were beginning to break ..

Luke 5 – The Gospel reading for Epiphany V_RCL

The difference? The difference is: Becoming, or at least on the path to becoming, One’s Truest, most authentic Self – defined in the context of “good”.

That is what I think this Scripture is about. Not only that: I think this is what Jesus is all about. It’s about becoming what the early Mothers/Fathers of the Church would have called “our Divine Selves”.

Until we human beings fall into our identity with all Being - “God” as the Christians call it – zilch or close to zilch happens. No one is drawn into the net of authentic Humanity. No “fish is caught", if I may use the metaphor. We are like Peter and his friends – working away but accomplishing little or nothing. This is the state most of us in the World are in at the moment. We have all “gone astray”. We’ve accepted a definition of our Self that is deeply flawed. As an example, American Christians have allowed ourselves to be publically defined by the likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Buchanan and George W. Bush and Mr. Haggart and that Dobson fellow – all of whom are, to put it boldly, visions of the Anti-Christ, i.e., the very opposite of what Jesus authentically represents. In Islam, they have allowed themselves to be “defined” by Osama ben Laden. In all religions, “believers” are perverted in the eyes of the World by mad extremists. By wackos, to be blunt.

Except for fruitcakes – of which alas there are many – do you know any reasonable person who things that Jerry Falwell or James Dobson represents a fully matured human being made in the image of the God of Love? No. (At least I hope not!) Same is true for suicide bombers, etc. And – sorry, I can’t resist – the American Republican party? (I do wish I were more irenic!)

The point of the Gospel? “Be ye perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”

Which only means: Get a grip! Be a Christ. Be a Buddha. For God’s sake, and for the World’s sake, let’s get over our shallow Self and embody Love.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, February 5, 2010

Why do you all push us around?

Rosa Parks, Prophet of Freedom,
Heir of Christ, born on this date, 1913

Wow! Imagine having the main problem of the World – and the main problem of the “spiritual failure of the World” – explained in 7 worlds? And that by the lovely, simple, essentially human Rosa Parks as our “human representative”? She who, claiming her dignity, refused to move to the back of the bus. If you think that God has no sense of sense of humour – think again.

Why do we want to push each other around? That’s the main question at the heart of human tribalism, at the heart of our fear of each other, at the heart of violence. Do not most of the World’s great Faiths – or at least their “Founders” - call for Oneness, for Respect for fellow human beings, for Unity? Jesus certainly did: “Father, may they be one, as you and I are one”; “Love one another as I have loved you.”

No one likes to be pushed around. Once we start, on any level, it spirals quickly until – like now – we are all at each others’ throats.

So, here’s our simple task, for individuals or governments or corporations, for the day, or week, or ….. Life:

No Pushing Around. OK?


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, February 4, 2009

Drinking bear is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy.
But being a Christian, that's a tough call. That's rebellion.

Alice Cooper, rocker, born on this date, 1948

Hard to think of Alice Cooper being 62 years old! Oh well.

Annie Dillard warned us about this. I can’t remember now where the passage is, but she talked about how nonchalantly Christians sit in the pews, when they should be battening down the hatches and prepared for a rough ride when we dare to invoke God! The same really could be said about anyone who sets out to plumb the depths of the Great Mystery of being Human.

Compassion. Love. Empathy. Joy. Wonder. Self-giving. But a few of the things to claim for one’s humanity and one’s fellow travelers. It is so easy to be distracted. Seeking control and misusing power and self-doubt being the chief among the distractions. But when we meet the Powers of Life, we’re in for a wild ride! One that will both sculpt us into a magnificent creature and “use us up” in a few decades. If we can abandon ourselves to it, the “end” will find us at peace and ready for the transfiguring Mystery of Death.

There are countless forces that want to enslave us, that seek to hold us back from claiming our full humanity.



Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, February 3, 2010

An atheist may be simply one whose faith and love
are concentrated on the impersonal aspects of God.

Simone Weil, philosopher, writer, “mystic”,
born on this date, 1909, Paris

What a gracious comment! It tells me a lot about Simone Weil and draws me to her. Actually, there were so many wonderful quotes from her that I may just have to go on a Weil Binge!

I’m not quite sure what she might have meant by “impersonal”. I get the impression that she thinks of “impersonal” as inferior to “personal”. I have long thought of the “personal” portrayal of God as but the very beginning of understanding. So did many of the mystical theologians. Important, yes, but the beginning of understanding. We human beings must “see” God, speak of God in human personal terms for God to “feel real”. And yes, I have my own very personal image of what God “looks like” to me, what Jesus looks like to me. I can connect on a very human, visceral, feeling level.

But I know that such an image barely scratches the surface. Even to those who knew Jesus of Nazareth and “saw” in him the imago dei, Jesus kept reminding them that “no one has seen God”. God himself told Moses that “no one can see God and live”. And Jesus kept telling them to go deeper. No wonder the image of the Transfiguration is one of the most powerful in the Orthodox tradition of Christianity. We can catch momentary glimpses as on the Holy Mount – but we live mostly on the plain.

Maybe the a-theist has the gift of “seeing deeper”. She can go beyond the material, the “seen”, to the “unseen”. A-theists have been thought of in such negative, hostile ways. As inhuman. I think we should value them and their “impersonal” vision. A-theists are people of “faith and love” – and Weil sees that from a heart filled with Divine Compassion.

They point us to the God who is “Beyond”. To the God who weaves each of us into the Mystery of Being.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Feb 2, 2010

I'll die before I'm 25, and when I do
I'll have lived the way I wanted to.

Sid Vicious (Simon John Ritchie Beverley)
of the Sex Pistols. He died of a drug overdose ,
age 21, on this date, 1979

Sid’s death before the time he predicted leads me to a question. It’s an important question, humanly and theologically. Is “warehousing people” Christian? Or “humane?”

I think it’s a question we really have to deal with in this day and age, as (at least in “affluent” societies with good health care – so, many Americans aren’t quite in that category, at least about 17% of us) people can be kept biologically alive longer and longer. If I had to say what the most depressing and troublesome image is of my decades in ministry, it is this: corridors upon corridors of warehoused persons strapped into wheelchairs, drooling, shouting out, women calling out to me “What lovely legs you have sweetheart!”. So, so sad. And I think, grossly inhuman.

Oh, I know. Life is “sacred”. So, define “Life”. If we look at it the way a lot of people do today – that Life must be biologically prolonged at any cost – then, taking the Christian Myth at face-value, God has to be faulted for allowing Jesus to die far too prematurely. If Life is to be prolonged at any cost, the God should have listened to the person who cried, “Let God save Him”, or come down from the cross Himself.

Personally, I think that the Hippocratic oath has been co-opted by insurance companies, playing on doctors’ guilt, for the worship of the Almighty Dollar. (The most money spent on Medicare in the USA is spent during the last six months of a person’s life – and it runs into billions of dollars, while children starve and practically no preventative medicine is covered.) Death isn’t a sublime Mystery in America; it’s a Big Business.

So: there’s my rant. I’m not going to pontificate on it. But it’s critically important to think about it.

Choice: Life? or Living Death?