Friday, April 30, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, April 30, 2010

When I started counting my blessings,
my whole life turned around.

Willie Nelson, artist, singer, born on
this date, 1933, in Abbott TX

A good note to begin Friday and the weekend on! Being Grateful. I think about it a lot. Since 2002, when I had my aortic valve replaced, age 55 (open chest, heart out of the body on machines, bovine valve replacing mine – and having the nurse get me up hours after the procedure to walk around the floor, tubes hanging!), and through several subsequent health issues – you don’t want to know! – I count my blessings.

Big things. Little things. Flowers. The Pacific. Good food and wine. Laughing. South Park – what a perfect way to deal with the dark side and with issues that people generally avoid at our peril! Dennis. Friends. Opera. Morning tea. Sunshine. Walks on the beach. The paths my Life has taken. The list is endless.

Counting blessings. It has also helped me deal with Death. Whatever comes after, I’ve had 64 years of fascination and characters (some of which I could have done without!) and pleasures and opportunities and vacations and Silence and the Holy Eucharist to teach me about my oneness with the Mystery we call God.

Who could ask for more! May our Friday be filled with Counting Blessings, and our Lives turn around!


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, April 29, 2010

A man is a god in ruins.

“Duke” [ Edward Kennedy] Ellington,
born on this date, 1899

The Duke would also have said, “A woman is a goddess in ruins”. Duke was talking about us all.

My dear friends Chris Cherney and Darby Dizard Cherney are full into the celebration of the Duke’s gracing Life. Chris has had a big part in organizing the celebration in Harlem, and Darby will sing so well! I met Duke’s granddaughter Mercedes Ellington some years ago at Chris’s birthday party. Her talent and gifts reflect Duke’s vibrancy and amazing talents.

I give thanks for Duke Ellington; he has graced American musical – and World - culture beyond measure.

His words call us to the Destiny of being fully human. Think of the most loving, compassionate, just, faithful, kind, generous Deity that any human community has created or imagined – and then ponder that as a vision for each of us as a human being. Oh, we will always show our darker side now and then; we’re human. But because we are human, we can choose the Light and walk that path. We’re all gods/goddesses “in ruins” – but that doesn’t change our reality.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The book to read is not the one which thinks
for you, but the one which makes you think.
No book in the world equals the Bible for that.

Harper Lee, author [“To Kill a Mockingbird”]
born on this date, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama

Well: if we needed a statement that made plain the problem with the Bible and with the Christian religion in this country and in the World, Harper Lee’s is IT!

To be perfectly blunt: the Bible is supposed to be the “book that makes you think”. That’s what it was in the early centuries. It has become, with many “loud” Christians, the book “which thinks for you”. And that in a culture, especially in America, that is becoming less and less imaginative and more and more intellectually limited – and boring …. and therefore dangerous. It is just this kind of “thinks for you” stuff that breeds right-wing, mob-like behaviour.

I am beginning to think that we should return to the tradition of the Early Church when it comes to the Bible. No one should be allowed to read it until they are old enough and able to work with a mentor. I’m beginning to think that Archbishop Cranmer made a big mistake in ordering that every parish church must have a Bible available to all, chained to a lectern in the church (thank God most people couldn’t read!). And that it was a mistake to have the liturgy “in a language spoken by the people”.

Our present system of public education doesn’t help either. It just develops for the most part non-thinking blobs suited only for “making a living”. The bright ones go to “private schools” and actually learn to think for themselves.

Don’t read the Bible to know what to think. Read the Bible to learn to think. It’s only a springboard, a first step, to being launched into a glorious journey that will never end. A journey of the Imagination which, if entered into openly, will lead you to your true Self and to the “true” God. But only if you understand that the Bible doesn’t think for you, but springs you free to Become.

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Do not be small minded. Do not pray for gourds
and pumpkins from God, when you should be asking for
pure love and pure knowledge to dawn within every heart.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Gourds and pumpkins. Oh what we make “God” into! The Fairy Godmother. The Tooth Fairy. The Celestial Vending Machine for all manner of material goodies, or “peace of mind”. GAP – gourds and pumpkins - will now be my shorthand to remind myself of how easy it is to make God so small.

“Pure love and pure knowledge to dawn within every heart” – now that’s worthy of God! And worthy of our journey to deepest humanity. We live in a culture which is superbly devious in it’s ability (which of course we give it) to seduce us away from any vision of our sacred Self, let alone from the sacred identity of the Universe. Jesus had something to say about all this in His so-often laser-like way: “Do not ask what you shall eat, or what you shall wear ….. seek first the Kingdom of God.”

No GAP today!

Pure love and pure knowledge: our mantra for today!!


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, April 26, 2010

I have an everyday religion that works for me.
Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line.

Lucille Ball, superb lady! Comedienne, philosopher;
She died on this date, 1989, age 77

Of course I watched her when I was a “kid”! Funny how comedians strike one – or not. I couldn’t stand Carol Burnett, and especially I couldn’t stand Jerry Lewis. But Lucy? Absolutely!

I agree with Lucille. (And I think that Jesus got it right too.) If you can’t love yourself, everything else will be “broken”. Each of us has to know that we are valuable, loved unconditionally, cherished, “OK” for who we are, etc. If we don’t, then every other relationship will be twisted, warped, skewed, etc.

The major problem in the Christian (and World) community today is that we aren’t “together” in our understanding of the Gospel – whose central message is “You Are Loved because you Are Who You Are”. It is out of that blessing that we are called essentially to act and Be in the World. But today, too many people are “broken”. Demeaned. They can’t act towards others in Love because they are deficient in Love.

What a sad state for us to be in!

Let’s try – in whatever simple way we can – to change this.

Love yourself. Love God. Love others.

Simple, simple, simple.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, April 22, 2010

Men will never be free until the last king is
strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

Denis Diderot

Ah, Diderot! Pithy if not anything. Some people have a way with words – people like Jesus and the Buddha and ….. the list is endless, thank God.

What Diderot reminds us of is that we human beings have a penchant for creating social, theological, economic, or other structures that slyly work against us. And that we hang on to them far too long – until they leap and destroy us before we take notice.

Governing ourselves is a tricky business. Once we get a system in place that eases out distress (like democracy, monarchy, “church”), we tend to stop paying attention. And before we know it, we are slaves to our own creations. “God” included.

It is clear to me that inventing “God” had some very good benefits. Freedom, self-examination, honesty, compassion, etc. But like everything else, “God” can be co-opted by the cleaver in order to gain control over others – and to diminish Life, to crush Joy and Kindness.

We are at this point in the World today. But I think there are more of us who don’t want this to happen than those who have been perverted.

Rise up! Stand your ground. Jesus said that it would be hard to follow His way of Compassion and Justice. But it is made all the harder if we cede control by default to the narrow-minded and the selfish and the ignorant.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The power of imagination
makes us infinite.

John Muir, Scottish-born naturalist;
he was born on this day, 1838

And to think that it all originates in the human brain!! What an amazing thing is the Brain! Is it not absolutely stunning that the chemical interactions (and I guess other; I’m woefully ignorant on this score!) produce Wisdom, and Insight, and Imagination, and “God”, and Meaning, and a myriad of other things that we associate with Being Human, and without which we would be dead in the water, so to speak?!! Little better than slugs – with apologies to the slug devotees!

“Imagination” means “to picture to oneself”, from Middle English via Old French, from the Latin. And what Muir could imagine!! Not only vast regions of preserved land, but the deep psychological and emotional health that Nature could provide to human beings. What a blessing he was to American Life and the Life of the World.

What we can imagine is a function of our brain, as well as of other faculties. If anything can teach me of the grandeur of being Human, the brain is that thing. And we use so little of it! Ye gods, the possibilities! We could be ….. gods and goddesses! And many would say that that is our destiny. Early Christian “fathers” said so , plainly, before they were suppressed by the Institutionalists.

“Infinite” means “eternal”. And I think that this is what Jesus intimates. Once we connect with the Mystery we call God, and once we understand that “God” is at the very core of who we are, and that we are One, we have entered Eternal Life. We pass from Time and Space to “infinite”, as Muir says.

It may take an Earthly Lifetime (the Buddhists and Hindus would say more!) to mature to this understanding. It will take some longer, some shorter time. But when we reach it!

Free at last! Free at Last! O Lord, free at last! And what we can do then!


Monday, April 19, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Luck: that's when preparation and opportunity meet.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau became PM of Canada on this date, 1968

Ever see a pic of Pierre Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada?? Here it is:

I was born in Montreal. Trudeau became PM the year after I left Canada to become a monk in the Order of the Holy Cross.

My brother Allan and his bride Sheila Parsons were married in July, 1971. Pierre had married his wife Margaret Sinclair that year in March. She was 22 – 30 years younger than Pierre. One wonders if this was a Princess Di Syndrome – what a thought to be the wife of the PM of Canada! They were divorced in 1984.

Anyway: I was at my brother and Sheila’s wedding – dressed in my monastic habit. Here’s the pic:

The fun thing this is: Sheila was wearing a version of the dress that Margaret Sinclair had worn at her wedding to the PM! And the fun thing is – I was the only one wearing a full-length white “dress” that day! Margaret Trudeau has worn a pant thingy – and so did Sheila – as did many Canadian women emulating the glamourous Margaret. It looked like a dress, but wasn’t. Ain’t Life interesting??!!

Religion is about Preparation and Opportunity. “God” can do nothing in anyone’s Life until we get off our duff and engage. “God” doesn’t manipulate – EVER! “God” stands ready always – ready to pour power and Love and Wisdom over us, into us, when we connect with our deepest reality.

Then we become Whole.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, April 19, 2010

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach;
but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.

From the Gospel called John, chapter 21

In the Christian Myth, it happens over and over again: people do not “recognize” Jesus after the Resurrection.

What I think is important is this: What triggers their recognition is something that Jesus does. He calls Mary by name. He breaks bread with the two after arriving in Emmaus. And in this incident, He again breaks and shares bread and gives them grilled fish. Not only does He do something that jogs their memory, He does something that resurrects a central core experience or personal connection.

Paul tells us that Jesus asked everyone to continue to share the last Passover meal together, with the twist of connecting the matzos (Passover unleavened bread) and the Cup (first or Elijah) with His “Body and Blood” – i.e., His offer of Life and intimate connection with God.

If we are grounded in a story of God’s intimate connection with us – as Jews and Christians certainly are – then we will be awakened by recalling such events, by participating in such ritual.

Mythologically, “God”, “Life”, is always sitting down to table with us, always waiting for us on beaches as we return from unfruitful work, awakening us to the Divine Presence by touching the core of our own hearts – and reminding us that these are two sides of One Reality.

“Religion” is practicing those rites and rituals, practicing those ethical and compassionate acts, which awaken in us our Unity with “God”, with Life.

Our heart always knows “It is Jesus”. It is up to us to nurture the Knowing.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, April 16, 2010

Sex is a momentary itch;
love never lets you go.

Sir Kingsley Amis, English novelist,
poet, critic; born on this date, 1922

Now: THAT’S the kind of love that Jesus – and the God I understand essential Christianity and Judaism proclaims - is all about! It never lets you go. (I can’t say about Islam; I haven’t lived it, and I don’t know people who have lived it for their whole lives. But to be honest: I don't have much evidence from its followers to see in Islam a God of Love.)

Sex is essentially human. It is bonding. It is fun. It is something that can create us as a creature who recognizes oneself in another human being – and carries us into a deeper understanding of our own humanity. It makes us more fully ourself.

“Love never lets you go.” That’s the nature of the “God” I “know”. And it’s what Life is about. Life never lets you go. Life is a great Mystery, a force that generates who we are.

But it takes an amazing transformation to make this Mystery real. Each of us must become one with “God”. Must understand that the love that “never lets us go” is OUR essential nature as well. And we must live it.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, April 15, 2010

The fact is that young people are going
to have sex whether you like it or not.

Emma Thompson, actress, born on this date, 1959

Ah. Emma in Angels in America. Superb. And Howard’s End. Elegant. She’s grand!

And, she’s right. “Young people are going to have sex whether you like it or not”. It’s normal, hormones are raging, and not dealing with this reality is simply stupid – or worse. And, trying to use “religion” or “morality” to deny and repress sex is idiotic and dumb.

America is, in my opinion, completely screwed up – on all levels these days. Theologically, politically, socially, morally. The Tea-baggers are the supreme symbol of our collapse – along with perhaps ridiculously so-called “Christian militias” intent on killing law enforcement officers in order to promulgate social insurrection.

Let me tell you: Jesus would NOT approve. I don’t give a shit what religious nuts in this country have to say. If you believe their insanity, you have been seduced. For God's sake, get a grip!

Let’s start dealing with the sexuality business upfront and honestly. It is part of being human. It is normal. It is something that young people need help negotiating – especially as they are having to deal with their sexual drives much earlier than it used to be. And their sexual orientation. Also: let’s encourage getting the Roman clergy out from under the imposition of celibacy. #1: Celibacy is NOT a “charism” (gift/grace) given to many and, #2: Gay men make GREAT pastors, especially if they are supported to lead a sacrificial life. Pope take note.

Sex is a basic, glorious given of being human. Anyone who doesn’t get this is simply as ass. We need to do all we can to grow healthy kids. They’re going to have sex whatever adults say. Let’s speak to them honestly. Honesty is what “God” is about.

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

“Your success diminishes me.”

I love Dilbert! I have a daily calendar on my desk, and I can’t wait to read it every morning. I almost always laugh out loud. They mostly have a “noir” humour to them – and for me it just adds the right tone to seeing the absurdity and the “wrong-thinking” of Life. South Park, which is my absolute favourite, does the same thing in spades. Cartman is definitely my alter-ego – probably nearly everyone’s!! (Let’s hope he’s not a lot of folks’ Ego!)

“Your success diminishes me.” NOT good thinking! Creates a lot of the problems of human community. This sort of thinking has its roots in envy and in greed and in narcissism and in “me-ism”. St. Paul (I think) had something to say about this – something to the effect that if one hurts, we all hurt, and if one succeeds, we all succeed. He is right; this is “good” thinking.

I think that if we can’t think this good way, it indicates that we have been badly taught, and that perhaps we have not been loved and cherished. And that’s got to be true for a LOT of people! I KNOW a lot of such people. And I know that I find such selfish thoughts in myself – and am working always to put them in perspective.

I am helped in this by remembering something I was “taught” and in which I choose to believe: we are all connected. Or, to use a Gospel image, we are all “members of the Body of Christ”. When the “ear” succeeds, we all – whatever “body part” – succeed.

As that lovely poet (don’t remember her name) said in the recent TV biography of the Buddha: every person we meet, we say in our heart, “Hello Buddha, Hello Buddha, Hello Buddha”.



Monday, April 12, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Personally I have no bone to pick with graveyards.

Samuel Beckett, playwright, Nobel Prize 1969;
born on this day, 1905, in Ireland

Strangely, I couldn’t find anything that I thought was “profound” by Beckett. Well, the Internet isn’t everything it is cracked up to be! But I assume that this was meant to be an humourous line – and I’m all for humour!

I love graveyards. One of my favourite books was/is A Celebration of Death, by James Stevens Curl. It was about graveyards, starting with the pyramids and going up to, I think, the wonderful graveyards of the early 20th century. Alas, that book got lost in my travels. And while I am now devoted to my Kindle, I would buy it again!

When I was a monk, I used to go and spend a retreat day in country graveyards. And when I was a parish priest, I would do the same. Mount Auburn in Cincinnati, Swan Point in Providence, Pere- lachaise in Paris (Oscar Wilde, Jimmy Hendricks, Chopin, Proust, Collette, Balzac, Sarah Bernhardt, Bizet, Maria Callas, Isadora Duncan – sigh!), Lincoln MA: they all had beautiful and quiet, peaceful graveyards in which to go and read and take cold white wine and a picnic lunch! You think that the World isn’t inspiring to the mind, heart and spirit? Try luncheons like that in graveyards!

One of my favs was the English Cemetery in Rome: the graves of Keats and Shelley. I spent three hours writing there, and just sitting in the sun meditating. I left flowers there for those great poets. My hope is soon to go with Dennis and see the gravesite of the beautiful Rupert Brooke on the Greek island of Skyros. He was buried there at 11pm amid an olive grove. What a Romantic I am – and now I am perfectly glad to admit it!

Death can be a holy and beautiful thing, as I intend to make mine. Dennis will take part of my ashes to Firenze, and part to Montfort where I spent beautiful childhood summers.

Befriend graveyards. They can soothe the heart!

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, April 12, 2010
[Late in the day! Oh, the Blessed Sloth of Retirement !]

Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart

Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart ?

Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint ?

Who filled your eyes with tears of bitter smart ?

Who gave thee grief and made thy joys to faint ?

Who first did paint with colors pale thy face ?

Who first did break thy sleeps of quiet rest?

Above the rest in court who gave thee grace ?

Who made thee strive in honour to be best ?

In constant truth to bide so firm and sure,

To scorn the world regarding but thy friends ?

With patient mind each passion to endure,

In one desire to settle to the end ?

Love then thy choice wherein such choice thou bind,

As nought but death may ever change thy mind.

Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, poet; patron of the
Oxford Men’s Acting Company; born on this date, 1550

There is a whole pile of people who claim that de Vere was the “real” Shakespeare. And they have websites advancing their “cause”. Of course, one can’t tell from the poem whether the Beloved is male or female – and that would make one think of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Bottom line however: we’ll never know – and I like that Life has its Mysteries!

So, a poem for your afternoon or Vesper meditation! Is there someone, or perhaps some great Truth or Wisdom, that has “taught thee first to sigh”, or any of the other human things that De Vere ascribes to his Love-object? It would be a unique one or thing – could be Alice or John or Beauty or ……

But whatever: I like de Vere’s “advice”, his insight – and I dedicate this to Liz and Philip who will wed each other in two weeks:

Love then thy choice wherein such choice thou bind,

As nought but death may ever change thy mind.

Love is indeed a choice, an act of the Will. We must learn to choose wisely and, having chosen, give it our all, with no thought of abandoning Love until forced to it by Gentle Death.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Saturday, April 10, 2010
[ Easter II in the Christian Kalendar ]

[Thomas] said to them, "Unless I see the mark of
the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark
of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.

John 20 – the Gospel reading for Easter II, Year C RCL

Actually, I’ve gotten rather tired of the “usual stuff” that I and others have said about Thomas. Doubt is important; seeing for yourself is important; Thomas was just looking for assurance; etc. That sort of thing.

What this says to me today is, No one else can live your Life for you. The encounter between Jesus and Thomas is a powerful symbol of a foundational Mystery about Life. Every one of us must find our center, must find whatever it is that is the fullness of Life unique to each of us, and in which we all share as living beings. Many call this this Energy of Being, this Energy of Life, “God”. Every human being must merge with “Jesus” – or whatever or Whoever “Jesus” may be in the World’s faiths and philosophies – in order to achieve Wholeness.

Sometimes, like Thomas, we are not “there” – not on the path of convergence for whatever reason. Usually this is our own choice, consciously or unconsciously, though the circumstances of Life can and do certainly lead us away, lead us to Avoidance, to Fantasy, to Fear. In the story, Thomas was later present, and so did have a personal encounter with Life. I suppose the lesson is, Engage as often as possible – “Lay hold on Life”, to quote the old hymn.

The marks on Jesus are marks of authenticity. I think we know them when we see them.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, April 9, 2010

Everything for me becomes allegory.

Charles Baudelaire, poet, translator,
literary critic, born on this date, 1821

Yes. Me too. The longer I live, the more allegorical Life becomes. The word “allegory” has its roots in late Middle English, from Old French, via Latin and Greek. It means “speaking other”. This is what I find as I get older: Everything speaks of deeper, other meaning. This does not surprise me at all. It is as it should be, as it is meant to be.

“I” speak of “other”. Who I am as an individual being reveals more and more about the majesty and mystery of being Human. “The World” speaks of other dimensions of Being. “God” speaks of other, vaster Mysteries, of Unknowabilities. “Black and White” loses meaning; “facts” speak of other more vivid, rich truths.

There is an evil power taking over in America. Things are being reduced to a poverty of meaning. Religion, politics, culture, education: they all are being reduced to a kind of sour stark meanness. If it goes on, it will destroy American life. In fact, it has rotted away much already – and the effect is palpable. America is becoming a pinched, moralistic, narrow, joyless, suspicious society.

My hope is for a reawakening of Allegorical Life. And I intend to embody it.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, April 8, 2010

Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.

Pablo Picasso, artist; he died on this date,
1973, in Mougins, France

And so is Religion.



Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Gravestone Upon The Floor In
The Cloisters Of Worcester Cathedral

'MISERRIMUS,' and neither name nor date,
Prayer, text, or symbol, graven upon the stone;
Nought but that word assigned to the unknown,
That solitary word--to separate
From all, and cast a cloud around the fate
Of him who lies beneath. Most wretched one,
'Who' chose his epitaph?--Himself alone
Could thus have dared the grave to agitate,
And claim, among the dead, this awful crown;
Nor doubt that He marked also for his own
Close to these cloistral steps a burial-place,
That every foot might fall with heavier tread,
Trampling upon his vileness. Stranger, pass
Softly!--To save the contrite, Jesus bled.

William Wordsworth, poet, born on this date,
1770. Poet Laureate of England (1843-50)

In the Christian “season”, it’s the Fifty Great Days of Eastertide. Celebrating the power of Life over Death in all its glorious dimensions for a “Pentecost” before Pentecost!

“Miserrimus” – translates as “Most Miserable”. How very very sad. And beloved elegant Wordsworth has a clear and (I think) important point to make.

No Christian, no solidly grounded Christian, could possibly think of themselves as “Misserimus”. As Wordsworth points out: symbolically, the “Blood of Christ” signifies that Christ’s shed blood represents the freedom all have from the power of Sin to forever condemn any human being from the status of “Most Miserable”. And of course, to think of oneself as “Miserrimus” is the height of Pride!

“Stranger, pass softly”! The message of the Gospel is that none of us ever need think of ourselves as condemned to Misery. By honest awareness and repentance, we are all set free to surge on into deeper and deeper Life.

If you contemplate a gravestone marked with “Miserrimus”, you haven’t “heard” the Gospel message.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Humanity has the stars in its future, and that
future is too important to be lost under the burden
of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition.

Isaac Asimov, author, visionary, scientist,
philosopher; he died on this date, 1992,
age 72

To be candid – you will note that I have made an advance; I didn’t say “perfectly” candid; I’m learning, I’m learning! – I find an enormous amount of superstition in the World. And in Religion in particular. I won’t go on to list all of the things I think are Superstition. It wouldn’t be “nice” in Eastertide. But I assure you that the List would be quite long.

I do however agree wholeheartedly with Asimov about the danger of “ignorant superstition”. Also, I hold a “high doctrine” of the nature of humanity – silly me, I suppose, given the evidence! I believe we do have “the stars” in our future – historically, mentally, “spiritually” - but I’m beginning to understand that it’s going to be a very long time in coming. I was always optimistic when Star Trek said that superstition and violence (and “God”) had been banished from human behaviour by the 24th century. I’m holding out for the 40th these days.

Much of the extremism rampant at the moment in the World, especially that based in religious fanaticism, is, I’m convinced, based not in “religion” but in Superstition – plain ignorant addlebrained dumb juvenile infantilism when it comes to science, philosophy, imagination, wisdom, you name it. We might as well be living still in the age of mountain gods and human sacrifice.

Today, in honour of Asimov, it might be interesting to think about what we “believe” – and whether it’s Superstition or not. In fact, magic as well.

Downright refreshing, I would think! Freedom from Ignorance always is.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, April 5, 2010

Hollywood always wanted me to be pretty, but I fought for realism.

Bette Davis, artist & actress, born on this date, 1908, in Lowell MA

So. Whad’ya think?? Yep, on the top is Bette when she first started in Hollywood. From the American “standard” point of view – and I could be faulted since, as a Gay man, what do I know about pretty women?? – I would say that she is “pretty”. On the bottom, she’s a little “less” conventionally pretty perhaps? (After all: it is I think still conventional macho American thinking that a pretty woman can’t be “tough”!)

So, maybe Bette was on the dime about herself?? After all, she is also reported to have said, “Psychoanalysis. Almost went three times - almost. Then I decided what was peculiar about me was probably what made me successful."

It/She’s a perfect metaphor for each of us, I think. The metaphorical choice between “pretty” and “real” lies right in the tangled core of becoming one’s authentic Self. One can be both “pretty” and “real”. But Bette is implying that being “just” pretty is a metaphor for inauthentic – and I think that that is often what “show business” is about – as perhaps Ricky Martin has finally grasped, God bless him. Alas, Life in our culture is too often like show business.

I would say that the Gospel (I’ll stick here to that since I know it best), and any truthful philosophy or psychology or religion, is about the choice between the metaphorical pretty or real. The Christianity I know is relentless about self-awareness, about “truth”. Jesus never let anyone get away with lying to themselves. Nor did Aristotle or Jung. The God of Christianity doesn’t either – and the force behind it is Love.

Bette poses the question for each of us today: “pretty” or “real”?

She was a brave and self-respecting woman to choose realism.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, April 2, 2010
[ Good Friday in the Christian Kalendar ]

The essence of that by which Jesus overcame the world was not suffering, but obedience.
Yes, men may puzzle themselves and their hearers over the question where the power of
the life of Jesus and the death of Jesus lay; but the soul of the Christian always knows that
it lay in the obedience of Christ. He was determined at every sacrifice to do His Father's will.
Let us remember that; and the power of Christ's sacrifice may enter into us, and some little
share of the redemption of the world may come through us, as the great work came through Him.

Phillips Brooks, Episcopal bishop of Massachusetts, born 1835

“Obedience” has a "bad rap” in modern usage. It smacks of a lack of self-respect, of a negative form of servitude, of unwillingness. In the best of Christian theology, however, Obedience is a very positive virtue. It means a willing response in love, in response to Love. It means having discovered Wisdom, Grace, Compassion, and having been freed to respond in the same context.

Look. Yes Jesus suffered. But the suffering is not at the core of the meaning of Jesus. In my opinion, there has been no more (to use an “old” term) blasphemous event in the last many decades concerning Jesus and the Gospel that Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ”. It profoundly distorted the Gospel – in support of a false understanding of the Passion that has been promulgated by the Roman Catholic and many reformation churches for centuries.

Jesus’ suffering on the cross does not define His work, His gift. His suffering did nothing to liberate humankind. What liberated humankind was His Love. His love for God. His love for humanity. His love for fragile Us. His love for the World. Yes Jesus suffered – as we all do, some of us as hideously as He is portrayed to have suffered, racked with the misery of chemo or Alzheimer’s or the assaults of aging, by the insults of society on the aged, by the indifference of government. Believe me, I have seen many human beings suffer the agony of the Cross as they approach the end of their earthly life!

What defines Jesus is Love. He ended upon a Cross because he chose to love. Love everything. Everyone. Because He knew that this is what His heavenly Father did. And His ultimate determination was to emulate that Deity.

To love is to be Obedient. In Obedience is the ultimate path to Freedom – obedience to Unconditional Love Itself.

“You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free.”

Obedience to Love is Truth.

This is the meaning of the Cross.