Sunday, May 30, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, May 31, 2010

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket
fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger
and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Commanding General, WWII;
President of the United States.

Today in America is Memorial Day.

May I gently suggest that the only ultimate purpose of such a remembrance day – whatever else we may be remembering – is to call us to Peace and Justice.

Our country is addicted to Militarism, as is much of the World. Let us work to return ourselves to the path of Peace. Let us spend our money and our integrity in the ways of Peace, not in the ways of war and destruction.

In war, truth is the first casualty.

We used to wonder where war lived, what it was that made it so vile. And now we realize that we know where it lives...inside ourselves.
~Albert Camus

Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.
~Albert Einstein

Force always attracts men of low morality.
~Albert Einstein

A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.
~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country.
~Alexis de Tocqueville

...Violence as a way of gaining being camouflaged under the guise of tradition, national honor [and] national security...
~Alfred Adler

A people free to choose will always choose peace.
~Ronald Reagan

What the people want is very simple - they want an America as good as its promise.
~Barbara Jordan

I hope that Barbara Jordan’s comment is indeed ultimately true of Americans.

May our war dead rest in peace, and their voices call us to the renunciation of violence.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Saturday, May 29, 2010

All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that
[the Sprit] will take what is mine and declare it to you."

John 16 [ Scripture for Trinity Sunday, RCL, Year C ]

It is – at least to me – very clear that by the time the Gospels were fully formed and accepted in written form, the Church had “had her way” with the Kerygma! At least with the written version. Seen simplistically, the so-called “doctrine of the Trinity” was formulated at the Council of Nicea (begun in 325) for primarily 2 reasons: (1) to satisfy the Emperor Constantine that the Christian Church would become a unified agent of unity in the Empire, and (2) to make clear that Jesus was God, and so set up the Christian Church as a very “powerful” religion since its “founder” was God Himself!

The “doctrine” of the Trinity has been a real millstone around the neck of the Church. No matter what is said, the Trinity seems to imply that there is more than one God. All of the convoluted language trying to identify Jesus as “God” while saying that “God is One” has created nothing but confusion – and it has also completely alienated us from Judaism and Islam.

The one thing I would celebrate on “Trinity Sunday” is this: Jesus, as “God Incarnate”, makes it clear (at least to me!) that We and God are bonded, our “essence” is the same. We human beings are connected with and part of the great Mystery of Being. There is no separation, no “gulf fixed”. We human beings are not some add-on appendage of Life. We are an integral and necessary part of It. Of God. Of the Universe.

And I think it is high time that we started acting like it – ALL of us in this amazing World!


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, May 28, 2010

As we learn to have compassion for ourselves,
the circle of compassion for others -- what and
whom we can work with, and how -- becomes wider.

Pema Chodron, from “When Things Fall Apart’

I have felt for a long time that most of our unpleasant behaviour towards one another erupts out of self-hatred, or (to use a much overworked phrase) “low self-esteem”. What psychologists call “projection”. We are mostly un-self-aware of all the turmoil within. But you can we sure that if we spew out anger and meanness all over others, individuals or stereo-typed groups, it is probably projectile vomiting from the volcano of self-negativity.

I was “brought up” – I think unconsciously on the part of my parents and perhaps my Scottish Presbyterian culture – to expect a great deal of myself. It was a standard which most people were not able to live up to. Reality and expectation clashed. No one helped to sort this out – certainly not the Presbyterian minister of our church!

But the bottom line is: we human beings screw up a lot! This being the case, two things need to happen. One, we need to give ourselves some slack. And Two, we need to stop dumping our frustration on others. Meaning, of course, we do need to “know ourselves” well.

I really like Pema Chodron’s sense of “compassion”: “what and whom we can work with, and how”. Integral to being compassionate is discerning what is realistically possible. Compassion is not just blindly “accepting” what’s coming down the pike. As in so much of Life, success is dependant on seeing things as they are, as they possibly can be.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, May 27, 2010

How many roads most a man walk down
Before you call him a man ?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand ?
Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned ?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea ?
Yes, how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free ?
Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn't see ?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky ?
Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry ?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died ?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Bob Dylan, songwriter; this song was on his
album, released on this date, 1963

It seems amazing that it could have been 47 years ago!! To me it was as yesterday. I hear both Dylan’s raspy voice, and Peter, Paul and Mary’s lovely rendition – and actually I prefer Bob Dylan’s. PP&M’s version sounded nostalgic; Dylan’s sounded challenging and confrontative. And it should have.

“Blowin’ in the wind”. Like so many things, this to me is one of those rich, beautiful metaphors. One of those exquisite paintings of the Imagination that lifts our hearts and minds and spirits to Possibilities that we keep losing faith in. I lived through the 60s, 70s, 80’s; we hoped. Now, as I sit in 2010, I wonder why.

I have no idea if Dylan knew that he was referencing the Biblical phrase about the Holy Spirit – that Spirit that “blows where it will; we know not where it comes from or where it is going”. But for me, that quality of Elusiveness is the beautiful part of the Holy Spirit. We try to put the Spirit in a box, in any container that allows us to control It. But the Spirit is not to be controlled. Period.

Will we human beings ever learn? Will we ever understand that canon balls flying is death to Humanity? Will we ever understand that Freedom is of the essence to living together in Peace? What will it take for us to understand that we can’t “turn our heads” – that we must face into what destroys us? What will allow us to hear the cry of Humanity in pain? How long must we murder and mutilate our fellow human beings in the vain and mistaken belief that this will solve our problems?

As the Buddhist Evening Gatha says, we must “Wake Up”. I hear that other song’s plaintive last words: “When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?”

Thanks Bob Dylan. If there was ever a time when we need to hear the call, this is It.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My motto - sans limites.

Isadora Duncan, dancer, artist,
born on this date, 1877

“No limits”! There is a certain strata of American religion that just shudders at this! The Puritan side. And believe me, that Puritanism is deeply ingrained in America religious life! It lies at the heart of the Teabaggers – and its most prominent characteristic is Hypocrisy. People like the Teabaggers hide – including from themselves – their longing to break out, to do all the things that tickle their fantasies. But they aren’t able to accept the reality of themselves. So they become high-and-mighty and self-righteous. But behind them all is the Hypocrisy. Robertson, Fallwell, Palin, Boehner, Baker, Swaggert, Stupac – scratch the surface and their human failings scream the truth. Instructively, they “get caught out”.

“Sans limites”, seen theologically, makes a perfectly good motto for a passionate Christian and human being! There are no limits to Love and Compassion and Kindness and Caring.

I’m with Anna! San limites! Join me!


Monday, May 24, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, May 25, 2010

If I was on a march at the moment I would be
saying to everyone: 'Be honest with each other.
Admit there are limitless possibilities in relationships,
and love as many people as you can in whatever way
you want, and get rid of your inhibitions, and we'll all
be happy.

Sir Ian McKellen, actor [Shakespeare; Gandalf in
“Lord of the Rings”] born on this date, 1939

Jesus did not set the standard as “Love” for no good reason. And it is the Church that set the standard of judgment at “belief” rather than “Love” – countermanding Jesus’ own intent. When the Christian Church stopped being the servant of Christ and of the God of Infinite Compassion, and set itself up as the greater Authority, it was obvious that we were going to be in trouble for a long time. We haven’t escaped that arrogance yet – and it will be a long time, I’m afraid. Too many people have too much of a stake in the status quo.

I have no idea of Sir Ian is a Christian or not. But I think he had got the Gospel down. Love is the standard of “right relationship” with God; put aside the inhibitions that come with serving a master other than Love; be an honest community; honour the Christ in all people; judge not – that leads only to a pride which diminishes one’s Humanity.

The World is sure as hell not a “happy place” right now. And anybody with any sense knows why. We have trained ourselves to fear and feel threatened by the “other”, and we have displaced the Spirit of Truth as our Guide. This is true right now of all Humanity, of whatever religion or creed or politics.

Something is going to explode. Soon. When it does, may there be enough people who trust the path of Love to haul whoever’s left into a community of Trust. Cynic though I tend to be, I retain a hope that servanthood in Love will be the higher power.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, May 24, 2010

The Queen is most anxious to enlist everyone
in checking this mad, wicked folly of 'Women's
Rights'. It is a subject which makes the Queen
so furious that she cannot contain herself.

Queen Victoria, Queen of Great Britain, Empress of India,
born on this date, 1819. Longest reigning British monarch.
[ and, in my opinion, she did it poorly.]

This is always the way, is it not? Those who have all the “rights” and privileges are most often opposed to extending rights to others who don’t have them. And Queen Victoria had every right and privilege! The rich and privileged are usually unable to understand, unable to be sympathetic or empathetic with the deprived. This is a theological issue.

Do you occasionally wonder why we elect people to our government whom we hope will meet the legitimate needs of the people, and who then proceed to prove they lied about what they said while campaigning (Say anything to get elected) and then to ignore the basic needs of people in our society? It is because they have the Victoria Syndrome. Almost everyone on our government is rich and/or privileged. Our system of election has been designed to ensure this outcome. The stupidity is, We the People continue to permit this. Our elected officials get great pensions, great and cheap health care, etc. and all the perks of power. They are instantly corrupted by them. And we continue to support this, while enormous numbers of us suffer.

Jesus would, I know, be interested in this. He was interested in the rich and powerful, and in the poor and deprived. He challenged the rich and powerful, and He bonded in solidarity with the poor and deprived. Those who challenge the rich and powerful rarely survive – and Jesus didn’t. In the context of the Christian “Mythos”, I don’t think He expected to. But HIs non-survival has a message for us.

Wealth and Privilege are in general antithetical to Compassion or Change – and even more so to “Rights”. Oh, “Charity” is possible. But Equality? – rarely.

Our preacher today, on this Feast of Pentecost, posed the question “How can we Christians contribute to the building of the Kingdom of God, and to Reconciliation, in our World?”

In America, there is separation of church and state in theory if not in practice. I am profoundly in favor of the theory! Especially in these days when the American Christianity that most affects government seems to have parted company with the Gospel.

If Jesus were here today on the Earth, I am sure that He would be prowling the halls on Congress, “speaking truth to power”. And yes, headed yet again to the Cross.

My prayer these days? That somehow the poor and deprived may become Senators and Congresspersons – even if I worry more than a bit that ALL are corrupted by power.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, May 21, 2010

Those who are motivated only by desire for the
fruits of action are miserable, for they are constantly
anxious about the results of what they do.

-Bhagavad Gita 2:49

So. What is the issue here? It is about the underlying motivation of our actions. The point seems simple. If we do what we do with an outcome in mind – especially if we anticipate something beneficial to us – we will indeed be “constantly anxious”. We can never know the result of any actions we take. And if we are thinking about producing a specific result, it means that we are certainly trying to manipulate or control what happens, to our benefit. We all know – if we are over 40 – that this doesn’t work.

So. What the Hindu Scriptures are saying is, We must be clear about what we value, know what our bottom-line principles are. And we must act out of those values and principles. The results are not ultimately important. What is important is our integrity. If our actions, done on the basis of integrity, achieve something useful and advancing of Love and Compassion and Justice, fine. If not, we have done our best. The results are not in our control. But whatever the results, we have been a person of character and principle. This is what must underlie our Life, our Religion, our Philosophy.

And of course: should our actions, based solely on our integrity, bring blessings to Humanity, well and good! Our being can rejoice.

That is the “reward” of acting from integrity. Delight and Wonder.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, May 20, 2010

Marriage must incessantly contend with a
monster that devours everything: familiarity.

Honore de Balzac, French writer & poet,
born on this date, 1799,

Ah. Familiarity. It is said, proverbially, to “breed contempt”. But that is the challenge and the great gift of “marriage” – which we are not going to define too narrowly (you get my meaning).

There may be any number of reasons for honouring and for participating in Marriage. But I think Balzac has hit on the main one. We human beings are so easily prone to contempt, to judgmentalism, to cynicism, to a sneering dismissal of others. It is one of our worst human characteristics. It fills us with pride. It isolates us. It makes snobs of us. It inflates our Ego – never a good thing!

Choosing to live with one other person is to set oneself on a rigourous path of self-awareness and of learning to get out of one’s own way when it comes to maturing. I have certainly found this to be true in living with Dennis. The blessing is: I not only face self-awareness and truth, but our relationship makes it “easy” to WANT to learn what Familiarity teaches!

Jesus practically lived with His disciples. They certainly learned about themselves! But Jesus learned about Himself too. He learned to understand human beings – our fragility and our ignorance and our pride and our weaknesses of all sorts. Despite their failures, He loved them as they were, while teaching them and helping them to grow in humanity.

And despite the disciples’ faults, they learned enough to become faithful spokespeople for the Gospel. But their frailties remained – as do ours – forever.

Familiarity may breed contempt. But more wonderfully, Familiarity breeds Compassion and Understanding and Tenderness. If we come to understand this, we become as “God” – willing to give of ourselves to that great Mystery called the Human Race.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This is love:
to fly toward a secret sky,
to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment.
First to let go of life.
Finally, to take a step without feet.


The scariness of Love is the relinquishment of one’s Self. Now, this is not a denial of one’s Self. Nor is it a diminishing of one’s Self in any way. In fact, it is an enlargement. I think this is what is known as a Paradox, or a Mystery. Two things can be true at the same time. One let’s go of the Self, and yet the Self is glorified. I think this is the Mystery of the Christ’s actions in Gethsemane and in His journey to the Cross and death, mythologically speaking. This paradox is the wonder of Love. John the Baptist understood this Mystery. He said of Jesus, “He must increase, I must decrease.” And yet Jesus was to say of John, “He is the least in the Kingdom of God, and yet no one is greater than He.”

Risking Love is the great act of Becoming. The “step without feet”. But before one can do this act, can “take a step without feet”, one has to “let go of Life”. This sounds like a negative thing; but Jesus is reported to have said, “Anyone who seeks to hold onto his life in this World will lose it; but anyone who is willing to lose his life in this World for my sake will keep it for Eternity.” The Myth of Jesus says that he went to death willingly, trusting in His God; He was “rewarded” with Life beyond Death. Our path to Life is His path.

When we offer or accept Love – and this is an aspect of “dying” - we “fly toward a secret sky”. All that is hidden in the great Mystery of Life, behind “a hundred veils”, falls away. And all that we feared falls away too.

To Love is the greatest act of claiming our Humanity. It is freeing, it is ecstasy, it is empowerment.

Pay attention. Whenever you are offered the opportunity to “fly toward a secret sky”, leap without hesitation!

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, May 18, 2010

''Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.''


''Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter—and the Bird is on the Wing.''

From The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, poet, mathematician,
astronomer, born on this date, 1048, in Nishapur, Persia

Such familiar words to English-speakers! I remember memorizing passages from The Rubaiyat when I was a boy in school.

And some good reminders today of what’s important in Life. For one, Simplicity. Quantity – of anything - doesn’t provide a happy Life. I guess every individual and generation has to learn this? Quality of simple basics does: good food and drink, Nature, Art (symbolized by the Book of Verse), and probably most important, dear friends to share Life with. And by the capitalized “Thou”, Omar may have meant the sense of union with Life Itself, with Being. What some call “God”.

That there are some with so much and so many with so little in our World today points to the basic underlying cause of so much strife, I think. It underlies the utter rage of people at the millions of dollars of bonus money going to fabulously rich bankers while so many can’t even go to the doctor, or have to choose food over medicine, or get poor education, including here in the supposedly richest country in the World. No economic or political system that creates and sustains such outrage is morally defensible. Capitalism, Communism, Free Markets: all can be used to deprive people of Life.

Khayyam also reminds us how short Life is! “The bird is on the Wing” ! It reminds me of the Venerable Bede’s image of the sparrow flying into the castle’s Great Hall, where warmth and delight are, then quickly our again into the dark; or, the Evening Gatha’s admonition of “Life and Death are important; Life is short; Awake, Awake!!” We must learn to repent with ease and grace: to see quickly our failures in Love and Compassion, Kindness and Generosity, to turn quickly back to Love. There is no time for long-held grudges, for rancor, for bitterness. If we can’t agree, then agree to disagree with respect.

May our days in this short earthly Life radiate with simple joys, and our energies towards seeing that none are deprived.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, May 17, 2010

I try to remind myself that we are never promised anything,
and that what control we can exert is not over the events that
befall us but how we address ourselves to them.

Jeanne DePrau, in The Earth House

“Don’t worry about tomorrow; today has enough worries of its own.”

People tend to think that Jesus was countenancing irresponsibility. We think of the Ant and the Grasshopper. Nope. He was dealing with the dreaded issue of Control! And with Reality. Oh, we human beings are ever the optimists – or perhaps the delusionists. We persist in thinking that we can control what’s coming tomorrow. We like to think that if we are really smart we can surely figure out what’s likely to come our way and “control” it. What silly creatures we are!

Education, if it’s “bad”, tries to train us to control Life and our lives. Religion, if it’s “good”, tries to train us to prepare for Mystery and the Unknown. Useful Religion teaches us the true principles that underlie Life, and alerts us to the skills we will need to respond to what “befalls us”. The Ten Commandments or Hammurabi’s Code are examples of this – though I’m not saying that such things as that don’t need to be constantly reassessed – all “rules” do.

Jesus decided to go for broke. He sure must have thought a lot of us Humans! “Love”, He said. Sounds simplistic. It isn’t. It’s the High Standard. Just try going through the day meeting everything that comes your way – which you can’t control, given the unpredictability of human beings – with the conscious intention to Love. Having, of course, boned up on the Art of Love.

Let me know how you do!


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, May 14, 2010

1 (14 oz.) can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/4 cup cold water
1 (4-serving size) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 (4 1/2-ounce) package ready-to-use crepes (10 crepes)
Powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups sliced or cut up fresh fruit, such as strawberries,
peaches, nectarines and/or kiwi fruit
White chocolate curls

BEAT sweetened condensed milk and water in large bowl with
electric mixer. Beat in pudding mix and cocoa powder. Fold in
whipped cream. Cover and chill 15 minutes.
PIPE or spoon a generous 1/3 cup filling into center of each crepe.
Roll up each crepe. Place on serving plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
SPOON fruit over crepes. Garnish with white chocolate curls, if desired.

Gail Borden patented the process for condensed milk
on this date, 1853

Yummy! When I was a boy, the Borden’s milk wagon came down our street to deliver milk, cream, and other goodies. The wagon was horse-drawn – and the horse had a straw hat with flowers on it, and an oat bag to snack on. She was a very smart horse; she knew just the speed to walk so that she and the milkman stayed in synch! We were allowed to feed her carrots, which the milkman kept. He had a metal carrying-basket that held 6 bottles – glass, with cardboard covers, which popped in the winter when they froze. The wagon has a wonderful picture of Elsie the Cow!

We always had Borden’s Condensed Milk in our house. It was wonderful on so many things. We put it on top of ice cream; spread it on hot toast on Saturday mornings; made icing with it. And I think that my mother used to crush aspirin in a spoon when we needed it and mix it with Condensed Milk to make it easy to take. Yum! Often, secretly, I would sneak to the fridge and eat it with a spoon. I wish the Cod Liver Oil we had to take every Saturday could have been sweetened with it!

Borden’s Condensed Milk is a metaphor. If the Deity you know is not as sweet and yummy and affirming and delicious and satisfying as BCM, you’ve wandered off the “straight and narrow” path. Even being redirected by such a yummy God is welcome!



Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, May 13, 2010

Isn't an agnostic just an atheist without balls?

Stephen Colbert, comedian, born on this date, 1964

I have been graced (deservedly, of course!) with a brilliant theological insight – undoubtedly vouchsafed to me by the Archangel Gabriel, since it came to me on a Golden Plate that was left on my doorstep the other day. She/He has been rather bored since Mary and then Joseph Smith – why else would Gabriel choose an overweight retired Episcopal priest to cozy up to???

The vouchsafed insight? Atheism (“nonbelief”) and Faith (“belief”) are the same thing!

It takes balls to have Faith. It isn’t so much that you have to believe unbelievable things. It’s that you really have to work hard! You have to buckle down and look at Life and mediate and think and ponder the Mystery of Life and make courageous decisions. And it takes balls, as Colbert intimates, to reject religious Faith – and you have to do the same thing: work hard! You have to buckle down and look at Life and mediate and think and ponder the Mystery of Life and make courageous decisions.

Atheists and Faith-ers share the same spirituality! They trust the Universe. They value human beings intrinsically. They see that everything is connected. They know that they thrill with the same energy of the Stars. They rest and rejoice in Mystery. They live trustingly in Contradiction. They know that a Heart of Blessing resides at the core of Being.

People of “Faith” and Atheists know that they are embraced by Being. That Life is a stunning Gift. That it is meant to be wildly enjoyed. Today, Dennis and I went to Black’s Beach, in La Jolla. A wide, quiet place; nudists being nudists, thank God; Whimbrels and Godwits having lunch; hang-gliders floating elegantly over the cliffs; sun warming us. We certainly felt One with All.

OK. This sounds so New Age, from old Hippies.

You know what? I am so glad to have had the experience I’ve had from 1946 until now! With the World the way it is now, I’m glad to have a foundation that will get me through the potential horror.

From the unapologetic Hippie:


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Brian's Reflection: Wednesday, May 12, 2010

There was a Young Lady of Bute,
Who played on a silver-gilt flute;
She played several jigs,
To her uncle's white pigs,
That amusing Young Lady of Bute.

Edward Lear, English landscape
painter & poet, born on this date,

After my 60th birthday party in Canada, Dennis and I flew to Scotland. We stayed in Glasgow with a delightful woman, a friend of a dear friend – and what a gracious hostess she was! We are most grateful for Jessica’s warmth and hospitality.

One day Jessica suggested a trip to the Isle of Bute – and off we went. A lovely train journey, and then the ferry to Bute. It was a delightful place, homey, with grand bakeries that had several of my childhood favourites: Empire Biscuits, Fern Tarts. Afterwards we wandered the streets – and came across a little antique shop. There we found one of our favourite vices: a key-wind chiming clock, mantle style, with a charming quarter-hour ring, and the hours. From the 40’s. Of course we had to haul it back as hand luggage – but it was worth the trouble, and its chime delights us.

Life needs delight. It makes me sad to think of all the people in this World who live dreary, limited, or even worse miserable lives. Especially when very simple serendipitous moments can so delight the spirit – like limericks! And I think of all the people who could do something – politicians, wealthy folk – to make the lives of their fellow-countrymen better, but who pander only to their own desires for wealth and power.

There are simple ways to delight people. I can’t think of a better way to spend one’s Life.

Here’s a delight: one of Lear’s paintings, called Corfu


Monday, May 10, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through
the ruts, don't complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy.
Don't bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!

Bob Marley, artist, musician; he died on this date, 1981, of cancer, age 36

I wonder why it’s easier said than done?? We are so susceptible to self-destructive behaviour and thinking! I know it’s just a given of being human, probably a lot of it anchored in as yet unevolved behaviour – Lordy, but Evolution takes so long!

However: evolution has to have a goal that is clearly something that will benefit Humankind. And we don’t have it. We don’t want to evolve, we humans. Because we don’t see an advantage – an advantage in Peace, in living together in honour and respect. This is the only explanation I have for the fact that we have not evolved from the behaviour of our earliest ancestors. We still desire to pillage and maim and destroy and fight and take revenge. At least ….. men do.

Bob Marley talks about a vision that is not rooted in “hate, mischief, and jealousy”. Some, a few, have one - but I feel that most do not. Over and over again, we hate, and make mischief, and are jealous and envious and mad for power and “stuff”. Religion has failed utterly.

If “religion” is to be good for anything, it must lead us not only to the Vision, but to ways to achieve the Vision. We’re talking about the Big Vision here! Global, Eternal, Universal. I don’t find most religion doing that today. I’m looking forward to reading Prothero’s new book “God is Not One”. Perhaps he can spread some light on their utter failure in our age. Of course I have my own theory: the image of God and of the Human Being are inextricably entwined. We have a thoroughly debased view of humanity these days – and “God” follows suit. Today “God” is only a pathetic reflection of our self-hate, of our sad self-image.

We are not Living. Not in any full, abundant sense. We “play” with the great Teachers – but we lack the will or desire to claim our Godlikeness. Why? I don’t know.

“Wake up and Live” says Bob Marley. I thank him for that cry. I will try to listen.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, May 10, 2010

Those who love me will keep my word,
and my Father will love them, and we will
come to them and make our home with them.

Jesus (from John 14 – RCL Year C, Easter VI)

I am constantly amazed at the Mystery of “God”. Among many other things, I have come to understand “God” to be the deep mystery of Wisdom. The Wisdom of the Human race, which is organically implanted in the human brain and seeps in and out of the human heart and mind and spirit. Stunning – and delightful.

I no longer think I’m being cynical when pushing the fact (as I see it) that the Scriptures are like anything else in Life – they spring from the human brain. But, maybe that’s how “God” works Her way into the Great Mix. (I know “God” does not have gender; but I use the Feminine to keep chipping away at the patriarchal co-opting of “God” – what damage that co-option has done to us and to God!) And the most wonderful part of this approach is that it makes it clear that we and God are One. And we are. “Forgetting” this sets up a cavernous gulf that makes it impossible really to understand “God”.

The passage from John was the Gospel for today, Easter VI. Talk about a sense of Oneness! The Father and Jesus the Word and you and I cohabiting. Now I know where the germ of “The Shack” came from! “Traditional” Christianity has put a huge gulf between us and God. And that is simply wrong. What it has done is alienate we humans from Life, from Being. And therefore, alienated us from ourselves. This schizophrenia contributes to a deeply unhealthy self-concept – and the darker side of ourselves loves this!

It’s time to say No. Time to reclaim our true nature. Time to “keep God’s Word”: Compassion, Justice, Generosity, Servanthood. These are the things we are meant to Be.

In doing so, we will know Joy.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, May 10, 2010

Week by week we are learning that
recognizing Jesus isn’t so easy ……

Br. Scott Borden, OHC, in a sermon

Boy – Br. Scott got THAT right in spades! To my mind, it is THE major problem within the Christian community: Who is Jesus? It is not a simple question to answer.

Much of the Gospel is propaganda. All Scriptures are. They are filtered through the minds of human beings who have agendas. The real trick – or perhaps I should say discernment – is to hear “the true voice of God”. I often feel sorry for God. What a challenge to have to deal with us human beings and our devious ways!

I feel I’ve heard the Message. After all, I’ve been “at it” for over 40 years. I feel that I have been blessed and graced to discern Who/What “God” IS essentially. And I’ll tell you: it really helps to be Gay. It allows me to see the Gospel from the point of view of the despised; to see how Jesus knew that the non-despised couldn’t really get it. I feel I’ve developed a “sense” for discerning when people are “using God” for their own personal, prejudiced, exclusive, narrow, self-serving, not-open-to-the-revelations-of-the-spirit ways. And Yes: I am aware that my position can also be seen as just like “theirs”. Such is Life. But I am disgustingly self-assured about this! I have believed that if we could get through the slave thing and the woman thing, and STILL trying to get through the patriarchal thing, we could get through the Gay thing. But it ain’t easy! It has so far taken most of my Life. And we’re not there yet!

Anyway. Jesus is indeed not easy to recognize. I love that scene in the garden between Mary Magdalene and Jesus! It is an amazing Symbol. A triumph of the wiliness of God. Ultimately, our spiritual task is to discern the true nature of God. Is it to be found in a God who is invoked as a justification for hate or warfare or prejudice or xenophobia or ignorance or rejection or fear or exclusion?

No. A thousand times No.

God is about universal love and respect of the amazing diversity of Humanity.

How much more wonderful this World would be if we could let go of our pettiness and embrace the wonder of the tapestry of Humanity.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, May 7, 2010

How good is man's life, the mere living! How fit to employ
all the heart and the soul and the senses forever in joy!

I trust in nature for the stable laws of beauty and utility.
Spring shall plant and autumn garner to the end of time.

Robert Browning, poet, born on this date, 1812

Yes, yes, yes! Oh, I know. I’m becoming a Pollyanna. It’s the true other side of my Cynicism. These days I awake and spend a bit of time fitting myself into the Mystery of Being. I find this easier than more specific “things”. I think about Being. I accept the Given of human Life. Pleasant, not so pleasant. Short, long. Happy, sad. Frail, strong. Accept that we never know what’s coming.

I find enormous Peace in this. So many struggles just ….. fade away. Then the heart and the soul and the senses are set free to wallow in Joy.

Oh, days can be overbearing, tiresome, challenging. But the Norm is heart and soul and senses charmed by Joy.

Global Warming may be screwing things up – but “Spring shall plant and Autumn garner till the end” ….. at least until the end of this “time” as we know it. I believe in new planting and new garnering – always.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, May 6, 2010

I have found little that is "good" about human beings on the whole.
In my experience most of them are trash, no matter whether they
publicly subscribe to this or that ethical doctrine or to none at all.
That is something that you cannot say aloud, or perhaps even think.

It is impossible to overlook the extent to which
civilization is built upon a renunciation of instinct.

Sigmund Freud, psychoanalyst, born on this date, 1856

When you are committed to the Truth, to radical honesty, there is nothing that you “cannot say aloud, or perhaps even think”. Period. This is, to my mind, one of the great liberating principles of human existence and of “religion”. If “religion” and philosophy are not based on Truth, on Reality, they are contrary to the essential human Quest.

Freud must have been backward-channeling someone from Now! Oh, I believe that human beings are capable of great “good”. This is my choice; I simply can’t live based on the concept of complete human depravity. Read History (so-called); you can see that much “good” has been done by societies, by individuals, by “religions”. (Of course, we might all disagree on what is “good”.)

You could say that Jesus and Freud were in agreement about Humanity. Trash. I recall that Jesus is reported to have said once, “Why do you call me good? Only God is Good”. That could indicate that He sensed the trashiness dimension of human nature. But. Jesus was an Optimist. If He wasn’t, He wasted His time, and His breath, and His self-giving. I don’t think He did. I believe that He stood up for, believed in, the Grand Possibility of human beings. Yes, we can be disgustingly vicious; but we can also be stunningly generous and compassionate and amazing! The latter has the capacity, in very small does, to overcome the former.

We are animals. We have lots of “animal instinct”. I know without question that if I came across thugs assaulting Gayfolk in the vicious ways that our society still condones, and I had a pistol in my hand, I might shoot them, suppressing my trained tendency to non-violence. (If they were assaulting ME, I might not.) But I do accept that civilized living must rest on an ability to suppress, in principle, our instinct to violence. I think it goes without question that Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr and others of their ilk have advanced the cause of “civilization”.

It may be non-PC. But we human beings can be Trash. All of us. We are seeing this today in our World.

Unless we can embrace this truth, we won’t evolve.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Mary Ann Vecchio gestures and screams as she kneels
by the body of a dead student, Jeffrey Miller, lying face down
on the campus of Kent State University, in Kent, Ohio, 1970

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Four students were killed, nine wounded. By our military, firing real bullets, on the orders of our then president Richard Nixon – later disgraced as one of the most heinous creatures in American history. Even now, the remembrance of the Kent State massacre makes my stomach heave. I was 24 years old, a new American. I thought I was living in a Nazi state.

Why do I feel this way after 40 years? Because of our present political situation. Nothing has changed. We are supposed to live in a democracy, albeit a representative one. We are supposed to live in a country in which the government is elected by us and exists to hear and meet our needs and our vision of a just and caring America. All I can say, after 40 years and more, is, What a Farce.

But here is the question as far as these Reflections go: is this a “spiritual” issue. Oh yes, it is.

When I look at America today, I see nothing that relates to the great principles of the founding of our nation - many of which principles were based on a liberal understanding of the Judean-Christian tradition and on ancient philosophical concepts of fairness, justice, equality, compassion.

No longer. No longer. Not even under the present administration. Millions live in poverty and hunger and illness, as we pander to the greedy, the rich, the powerful. ALL of our legislators are rich, relatively speaking, or enslaved to the rich and powerful, and they cater to their kind. Money is the not-so-new American God.

You remember what Jesus said about “God” and Mammon.

I am glad I probably won’t be alive when the chaos and collapse descends. But at least the “hit bottom” of all twelve-step programs holds hope for new Life.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, May 3, 2010

The Soviet government is the most realistic
regime in the world - no ideals.

We don't thrive on military acts. We do them
because we have to, and thank God we are efficient.

Goldie Mabovitch, born on this date,
1898, in Kiev, Ukraine (later Golda Meir,
Prime Minister of the State of Israel)

When I was a young man, in the 60’s, I was an ardent fan of Golda Meir. And of David ben Gurion. As far as I could understand it then, these were leaders of a people looking for a home. A people who had been through Hell or worse. A people abandoned by the rest of us to our shame. Today, I still feel deeply that all peoples should have a home in this World. Somehow, this has to move the hearts of all human beings. No one should be homeless. No one should have to live in a place where they are oppressed, demeaned, or be “stateless”.

Now I am wiser about realities. I have read the history. Both Golda Meir and David ben Gurion are examples of people who lost touch with their spiritual foundations. It happens so easily, especially when we are dealing with horrible deprivation. I feel it intensely, as a Gay man. With all my heart I want to be like Jesus; but so often I feel the anger overtake me. If I am not careful, I lash out in fury at any hint of anti-Gay behaviour; and I border on dehumanizing all people I see in that mode.

Golda Meir mentions ideals. To be an authentic, evolved human being, you have to have ideals. To have no ideals is, in my mind, to renounce being human. Both Golda Meir and David ben Gurion failed in humanity. What both of them did in their desire to establish a Jewish homeland was often heinous, cruel, inhumane, unprincipled. They join a large group of people – in fact, most of humanity at one time or another. We Americans did it to the native peoples, and to the Filipinos and the Hawaiians, as did most colonialists – and we often justified it by blaspheming God. The Tea-baggers are at it again. Will we never learn?

Militarism is never excusable. It is always genocide or murder. The Israelis of all people should know better. We can all justify militarism – but all militarism demeans any People, and any “God”. I think that militarism is always a failure of humanity and of Faith. To exult in “efficiency” is to have lost touch with the human community.

Don’t think I’m picking on the Israelis. I could implicate all of us. Are we ever going to stop justifying killing and war? My central point is this: if we lose touch with Compassion, Justice and the equal value in “God’s” eyes of each and every person, we have abrogated our humanity.