Saturday, July 31, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, July 31, 2010

"The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself:
'What can I do? My barn isn't big enough for this harvest.' Then he said, 'Here's
what I'll do: I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I'll gather in all
my grain and goods, and I'll say to myself, Self, you've done well! You've got it
made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!' "Just then
God showed up and said, 'Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—
who gets it?' "That's what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not
with God."

The Gospel called “Luke” 12 [the Gospel reading for this Sunday,
Aug 1 – RCL; The Message]

Here’s a story about we human beings getting stuck in a severely flawed , diminished understanding of ourselves, of who we “are”. Dr. Peterson is a mystical master; I think this is why I read his version of the Scriptures so avidly . He understands the “hidden” meaning of this story. Look what he says at the end, in complete understanding of what this parable is about; “"That's what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God." This is not a story about hoarding material things; it’s a story about not recognizing the true Mystery of our human nature: our Oneness with all things, including what we call the Divine Soul of the Universe.

So: Jesus responds to the man who asked him to be a judge and get his brother to give him his part of the inheritance. He intended the story to be a kick in the pants! He in effect says to the man, “Stop wallowing in such a limited view of who you Are! Stop spending all your energy seeing Life as a contest of accumulating “stuff” that doesn’t enlarge your Humanity. Step into the Mystery of your Oneness with “God” and All Things. Then you’ll really be rich.”

Staying stuck in an impoverished Humanity is Death.

Choose Life.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, July 330, 2010

I'll walk where my own nature would be leading:
It vexes me to choose another guide.

Emily Bronte, author, (“Wuthering Heights”)
born on this date, 1818, in Massachusetts

Now, there’s a self-confident woman! And a wise one too.

The interesting things to me is that we each must decide to trust and value our own nature. We can be taught all kinds of things, read all kinds of things. But I have discovered after 84 years of Life that there is no “proof” that any one path or religion or philosophy is the “right” one. If anything, all contain some aspect or dimension of Reality. In the end, something has to “tell us”, from deep within, what makes Sense.

I’ve considered all that I have read and learned and “been taught”. And I’ve come to my own conclusions and made my choices about Life and “morality” and “truth” and “God”. I’ve chosen what principles I wish to live by, principles which promote Peace and Compassion and Kindness and Respect and (a word and concept I find weak) “tolerant”. I’ll admit to one problem though: living in America and in the World today as a Gay man makes it very hard to stick to those principles! I struggle all the time.

Prompted by a friend, I’ve begun to follow the advice I’ve often given to others: Don’t feed yourself with Toxicity! I’ve eliminated everyone and every cause (even including the Human Rights Campaign!) that just get my anger up. I’ve accepted my friend’s advice that there indeed things I can’t control or change. That I need to concentrate on being loving and doing and supporting loving things and people.

So, we’ll see how far I get! Meanwhile, I’ve noticed how often my neck and shoulders are scrunched in tension, and my chest aches. Time to start relaxing!

The hardest part? To “believe” that God is at work in the World and that somehow Good and Justice and Caring for the poor and underserved will prevail. I have my doubts that it will in my lifetime, frankly. Pessimistic, I know. My friend also pointed out that those born under the sign of Cancer are prone to be obsessed with the idea that all the horrible things will never get better! Yep, that’s me. Christianity doesn’t seem to have done a damn thing about it for 2000 years, nor any religion for that matter!

Oh well. “I’ll walk where my own nature would be leading: it vexes me to choose another guide”. I feel the one I’ve developed over 60 years can be trusted.

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, July 29, 2010

The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the
beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.

Joseph Campbell

I’m with Joseph Campbell.

As I understand and indeed experience it, human beings are profoundly connected with the natural world, with Nature. We are part of the “animal kingdom”, however much we think we enhance our being “spiritually”. But let’s not be dualistic about this! “Nature” is not just “material”. Nature is both material and spiritual, if indeed we can limit Life to such a black and white division – and I certainly think we would be silly to do so.

Granted, a lot of nonsense has been written about how the lunar and solar cycles, the tides, etc., affect us human beings (like other animals). But the nonsense aside, I believe those cycles do speak to who we are in various ways. The daily sun “setting” and sun “rising” is a very central and powerful metaphor about the central reality of human development: our coming to the consciousness that we are One with the life-giving energy or “Divine Soul” of the Universe. The setting sun represents the “descent” of that Divine Life into materiality; the rising sun, the conscious rise to the realization that we share in the Life of that which gives life to all things. St. Paul described it as coming to understand that we are “Christ/God in us, the hope of glory”.

Separating ourself from the Natural World causes us to despise the World in which we live and are inextricably intertwined with. We mistreat it, as we have been doing, and “wound” it. We see it in our World today. What we need to see, i.e., become fully conscious of, is that in doing this, we are also doing this to ourselves. I think that the destruction of the human being is equally evident in our modern World.

One of the great gifts that my childhood in Montfort, at my grandmother’s summer cottage, gave me was the deep sense and experience of my intimate oneness with the World in which I lived. I knew this reality when I was very young – and it has never left me. In turn, that understanding gave me a return gift: it showed and continues to show me a path to wholeness.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, July 28, 2010

All outward forms of religion are almost
useless, and are the causes of endless strife.
Believe there is a great power silently working
all things for good, behave yourself, and never
mind the rest.

Beatrix Potter, author of “Peter Rabbit”.
born on this date, 1866, in London

I’d like to think that Beatrix Potter was unusual in whatever her Life experience was that created such a position on “religion”. I don’t think it is the case however. My own experience with my family, my friends, and my ministry in the Episcopal Church showed me for how many people – especially former Roman Catholics – Potter’s experience with religion was strongly negative.

My father and his eleven siblings were raised Roman Catholic – and of those who lived all left; this was in the early decades of the 20th century! By the time I retired from full-time ministry in the Episcopal Church, over 80% of new Episcopalians were former Romans. They believed in a “great power silently working all things for good”; they “behaved themselves”; and they were glad to leave “the rest” behind.

If you find out what lay behind Ms. Potter’s feelings about “religion”, let me know!

I’m not going to rant. I just want to say this. If one is involved with a “religion”, we need to remember that “religion” is meant to be a handmaid of the Religion’s basic principles. “Religion” is the stuff we do to stay close and intimate with God, with Holiness, and with our vision of the deepest and most authentic Humanity. If your church’s “religion” doesn’t do that, you have a profound responsibility to try and change it.

If you can’t change it, then I advocate leaving it. We’re talking about your Soul here, so we’re talking about everything that is at the heart of becoming one with the Holy, of becoming our true Self, of knowing we are one with every human being and with all Being.

Love. Be kind. Treat others as you wish to be treated. As Jesus said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden light”.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Home life is no more natural to us
than a cage is natural to a cockatoo.

George Bernard Shaw

By “home life”, I assume that Shaw means being around other people, which is only intensified by such things as family, spouses, close friends.

I think he has something here. If he is saying that human beings are essentially unique, solitary beings, I think I agree. I don’t think that Shaw is just being cynical.

Think about “Adam and Eve”. Adam was at first alone. On the whole I think he was doing just fine! Sounds idyllic to me, from my own rather “monastic” temperament! Craving, and getting, Eve as a companion really made a mess of things.

But the story remember is teleological: it is an attempt to “explain” something “backwards”, as it were. In this case, it is trying to have a go at explaining why human relationships are so messy! We may indeed be solitary beings, but we in fact live in relationship – with other humans, or animals, or the land, whatever. It seems that “home life” is a given, on some level.

“Natural” is not the normal living state of human beings. “Unnatural” is. Being “human”, like it or not, is the product of our uniquenesses rubbing up against each other.

The secret is learning how to make “home life” enhance us, not diminish us. Such is the art of Life.

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, July 26, 2010

Abraham confronted [God], "Are you serious? Are you planning on getting rid
of the good people right along with the bad? What if there are fifty decent people
left in the city; will you lump the good with the bad and get rid of the lot? …..
[ 40, 30, 20, 10 ] ….. What if you only come up with ten?" "For the sake of only ten,
I won't destroy the city."

from Genesis 18 [The Message] – The Gospel reading for Pentecost IX

The story of Abraham we hear today reveals what I think is the most exciting dimension of the Mystery called Prayer.

Most people think that this is a story about God. About God being convinced to “change Her mind”.

It isn’t. It’s a story about us. It’s about our Journey into the depth of Mystery of God and the Mystery of our true Selves - which ultimately, so the mystics tell us, are the same thing. It’s about us changing our minds, our perceptions, our understanding. It’s Abraham who sees, step by step, deeper into the Mystery of God’s Justice and Compassion, deeper into the Mystery of what it means to be Human.

I have no doubt that Abraham would have worked God down to 1, maybe even none!. Perhaps that he only got to 10 is a sign to us that the Journey into God and Self never ends. There is always a deeper layer. Step by step, Abraham was challenging himself, opening himself to a fuller and deeper understanding and experience of the Mystery we call God.

Abraham – and we – are exploring the Question: “Just how extravagant, how generous, is God’s love and compassion for us?” This story asks us to contemplate the Mystery of both God’s and our infinite capacity for Compassion.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, July 23, 2010

Never think you've seen the last of anything.

Eudora Welty, author; she died on this date,
2001, age 92

Well, I guess I’m glad to have that bit of wisdom ….. though I’m not at all sure. At least there are two sides to it. I am desperately sick of the way the World is at the moment ….. bombings and killings and racism and religious extremism and political corruption and millions of refugees and people dying of hunger and disease, and militarism and drug-runners, and Swiss bank accounts stuffed with billions stolen by elected officials (including Americans, of course) ….. and on it goes. It is so depressing. So discouraging. So disgusting. It isn’t the last of it, either ….. and I suspect from History that it will go on forever.

But. There are indeed loving kind and generous and honourable people who are doing their best to care. The political and economic elites aren’t, alas, among them. And it crushes me to think that most often we have put them in their positions where they can exploit and enrich themselves. I look at the American Congress today and I am sickened by their flagrant self-serving and aggrandizement.

“Never think you’ve seen the last of anything” says Eudora. She’s right. It will get a lot worse.

Be kind, generous, loving, compassionate, thoughtful, caring. That’s what all the truly great teachers of the Soul tell us.

Better take a deep breath and live those principles. I hope Karma will eventually turn the tables. We can only be true to the Christos within us. And to those who share our hope.


p.s. I said that Rufus Wainright wrote many operas. I was mistaken. Apologies.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, July 22, 2010

Let the little fairy in you fly!

Rufus Wainwright, composer,
musician; rock singer; opera composer;
born on this date, 1973, in Canada

Rufus is an amazing man! He is 37 today and, aside from his other music, he has written something like 27 operas, all of which have been performed. Phenomenal!

No “straight” man would say the words I’ve quoted, so you will know that Rufus is Gay. But I hope that everyone, including “straight” men, will hear the message.

“Little fairy” is a metaphor, of course. Fairies connote magic and whimsicality and charm and humour. So many human beings are repressed and ponderous and bound-up and up-tight. What a bore!

“Little Fairy” can also be a metaphor for the Holy Spirit”. Yes, really! Coming from who knows where, going who knows where. Sprightly.

The World, I think, would be a lot better place if all of our Little Fairies were flying! Open up your Inner Being today and let your Little Fairy fly!


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, July 21, 2010

There are no passengers on
spaceship earth. We are all crew.

Marshall McLuhan, thinker,
born on this date, 1911, in Canada

McLuhan is correct. And the reason he is, is that there is no completely self-reliant pilot called “God” of Spaceship Earth or Spaceship Humanity who has no need of a crew.

If “God” is anything, “God” is a metaphor for each of us, who share in the Mystery called Life. We are unique, yes, but we are inextricably connected. The Spaceship of the Human Community cannot fly without all hands on deck. This is a reality we must learn or relearn if the Ship is to fly.

Fly? As in, Make it; Survive. And to do so, Religion as we know it these days must die. Religion must rediscover it’s Heart in the one great Myth. We are incarnate beings, body/material enlivened by the mystery of “spirit” – not making a bonded duality but a seamless Unity.

True Religion is a handmaid to this unity which enlivens each and all. Or, to be authentic, must be that.

The human community is about to collapse. It’s time for the crew to come together and (wo)man the ship on its Journey to Compassion.

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Five enemies of peace inhabit with us –
avarice, ambition, envy, anger, and pride;
if these were to be banished, we should
infallibly enjoy perpetual peace.

Petrarch, philosopher, born on this date, 1304

Wisdom from 700 years ago. I was looking at the “culprits” with regard to myself.

Avarice ….. nah. I haven’t had much to be avaricious with, working in the church all my Life! And what I had, I spend!

Ambition ….. hell nah; gave that one up a long time ago!! I discovered at an early age that it was far less stressful being without “career” ambition – though I think I was always ambitious to advance inner freedom. And I settled for the wealth of basically being able to control my schedule.

Pride ….. tricky. I think if you think you aren’t prideful, you’ve just trapped yourself! I suspect it’s what you’re prideful about that’s the key. It’s ok to be proud of trying to serve and love.

Envy ….. Nah. Not really. I read Architectural Digest and slaver; just a little fantasy to juice up the creativity! I’d like the fanciest iPad, iPhone, and new iMac. Oh, and a Tuscan farmhouse. But I wouldn’t cheat, kill, embarrass myself, or (if it were even a possibility) go into debt. Not worrying too much about envy. A good sign: no bitterness in my soul!

Anger ….. hell Yah. This is the one. I’ve ranted about this before, so I won’t again. Anyway, at least maybe with this one to deal with, it’s distracted me from the rest?? There’s a blessing in every curse!

Hope your List is as untroublesome as mine! Plus, I’ve just had left-over lentil, chicken and veggie soup, home-made with good olive oil, for breakfast and am truly content.



Sunday, July 18, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, July 19, 2010

Self Realization is the knowing--in body, mind and soul--that we are
one with the omnipresence of God; that we do not have to pray that it
come to us, that we are not merely near it at all times, but that God's
omnipresence is our omnipresence; that we are just as much a part of
Him now as we ever will be. All we have to do is improve our knowing.

- Paramahansa Yogananda

Well, that is the issue of course. We are prone to be “spiritually” lazy. Or, we don’t recognize the seriousness of this improving our knowing.

Now, some people (like C. S. Lewis – “The Screwtape Letters”) have written – I hope anthropomorphically – that “the Devil” works to keep us lazy, to keep us distracted. And Distraction, Forgetfulness, are the major problems.

I don’t believe in “the Devil”. But I do believe that our human brains are busy busy busy! Lots of stuff going on. Easy to Forget what we are about. Easy to forget to keep things in perspective, in balance. We get to Doing, and forget Why.

“Why” is critical. That’s part of the “Mary-Martha” thing. Important to sustain the Vision, act out of the Vision.

PY is on the money. We hover on the balance of Self-Realization when we know our utter unity with the mystery of Life (It isn’t a She or He), and continuously “improve our knowing”.

Ah, to rest in that Balance!


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat July 17, 2010

"Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted
by many things; there is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part, which will not
be taken away from her."

Luke 10 [from the Gospel reading for July 18 RCL]

Remember. Until the 3rd C., almost no one took these stories “literally”. NO illustrations about spiritual life were “literal” or “historical”. They were mythological stories, in this case the Judeo/Christian continuation of the Egyptian/Greek profound stories of the human Journey to Fullness.

“Mary” and “Martha” – who were characters in the Egyptian story of Osiris/Horus – are dimensions of our Selves. They are the “active” and the “contemplative” parts of our nature. No one denies that we have to “get on” with living our lives. It is critical that we understand that, once we have learned the underlying principles, we MUST ACT. This is Life.

“Mary” represents our need to immerse ourselves into the sublime truths and realities of Life. “Martha” is the part of our nature that must then incarnate those principles of human Life into daily manifestations of expression.

The lesson is: Integrate. We must become whole and functional.

In the story, the part of our human nature that is “Martha” has lost touch with that part of human nature which grounds our actions – and our “Martha” has become disordered. Jesus reminds us with this story to be grounded first in the Vision, then to act out of an inspired Vision to tease our Self and the World into Transformation.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, July 16, 2010

The big question is whether you are going to
be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.

Joseph Campbell, philosopher, mythologist

Who, or What, raises these days the critical “big” questions for us, in order for us “to be able to say a hearty yes” to the adventure we call Life? I guess the bottom-line answer is, “Life Itself”. I hope this is so, because there are so many people in the world today who have only their Life experience to guide or teach them. Think of the uneducated. Education is, I believe, one of the primary tools for approaching the Big Questions. Think of the vast numbers of the uneducated poor. Think especially of the vast numbers of women deprived of education by patriarchy or religion. To my mind – though I know it is complex – the French ban on the burka as against “French values” (and I hope they mean any woman of any nationality or religion) is in part a stand for equal opportunity to participate fully in Life.

Besides Education in all aspects, I am willing to say that Religion, properly understood as a path to the full realization of the human person and human community, can be a powerful tool to understanding the Big Questions and to finding trustworthy paths. Alas, here in the USA and other places, Religion, and particularly the Christian religion alas often stripped of any real truth, has essentially been subverted to a methodology of control and power (as the Founders seem to have intuited it would), and rightly is not permitted in public schools. (I am absolutely not in support of publically funded private/charter/religious schools, as you may imagine.)

I could not find any local public schools where philosophy, which usually deals with the Big Questions, was taught. Nor even, rigourously, literature or art, which often deals with the Big Questions, and which many parents oppose their children having to grapple with. This is not just sad; it is a form of genocide. More and more to me, America feels like a country full of the victims of intellectual and moral genocide.

So, I have tried for 40 years in “ministry” and am till trying over the Internet, to do my part in helping to raise the Big Questions.

I profoundly believe that being equipped and freed to be able to say a “Hearty Yes” to the adventure of Life is what will change the World for the better. My plea is: don’t settle for any Education, any Religion, and Philosophy that limits your positive and Life-affirming Yes!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: July 15, 2010

Anything that consoles is fake.

Dame Iris Murdoch, author,
philosopher, born on this date,

“Consolation” is indeed a troublesome word. When someone says “consolation”, I think immediately “There, there; it will be alright”.

No. In most cases of really challenging Life stuff, it will be a long time before it will “be all right” – and for it to be “all right”, we will have to pull ourselves together and learn some basic realities and make some probably hard decisions. Life can be tough. Iris Murdoch knew what it was like for Life to be tough. Terrible depression and later dementia.

“Consolation” is from the Latin, “con” – with; and “solare” - soothe. You know, often when we are with friends who have been through Hell, we want to console them. But this very often means that we ignore or dismiss what’s happening, what’s really going on.

It is generally not a good idea to avoid realities. What Iris says is true: “Anything that consoles is fake”. She got, I suspect, a lot of “consolation” as she tried to deal with the hard realities of her Life. But it didn’t help. She killed herself eventually. What we all need is “tough love” – and I am reminded of the Biblical phrase “Speak the truth in Love”.

There is no way to lie in Love. No way. It will always come across as a Lie.

With each other, especially those we are close to, we must not “console” in difficult times. We must learn the gracious art of waiting until that loving moment when we can be honest, gently and with genuine Love. Before that time, Silence and Hugs are the best.

It is one of the great lessons of Life: never to be Fake.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Life has got a habit of not standing hitched.
You got to ride it like you find it. You got to
change with it. If a day goes by that don't
change some of your old notions for new ones,
that is just about like trying to milk a dead cow.

Woody Guthrie, singer, born on this date, 1912
[ he died in 1967]

Ah, good ole Woody! Down to Earth wisdom.

All I have to say is, I’ve been pretty good all my Life at changing some of my “old notions for new ones”. I’m not quite sure where I learned that ….. though I think maybe some of us are that way and some of us aren’t. Does it have anything to do with the way that we are raised? I don’t know. From my own experience, No. I was never talked to about that – though my later religious experience did teach me ….. for which I am grateful.

Do you think that “God” draws those who are open to change to be “leaders” in this business? If so, I think it is in order to teach us to laugh ….. because I’ve tried to teach people all my Life to embrace and welcome and honour Change – to little avail!

So: tomorrow is a day for not trying to milk dead cows!

Good luck.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The very thing which is now called the Christian
religion existed among the ancients also, nor was
it wanting from the inception of the human race
until the coming of Christ … at which point the
true religion which was already in existence be-
gan to be called Christian. [italics mine]

Augustine of Hippo, the Retractiones

You can bet that I was never shown this text when I was in seminary!

The “true religion” is the ancient Myth of the incarnation of the “divine” in every human being. This Myth, this central truth, is to be found in every major religion in some form since Time has been recorded.

Think about this today. The “Christos” is the human person who has awakened to the Divine Within. Who recognizes the she is a Being housed in the wonder of the material and animated by the mystery of the energy of the Universe, of Existence. Once that wonder has been glimpsed, we are on the path to what the Gospels call “resurrection life” – which has nothing to do with the hereafter, but with the reality that, upon understanding, we have “entered into the fullness of Life”.

If you are there, blaze out and change the World! If not yet, stand open to the Christos’ approach!


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, July 12, 2010

“God” is Life, and our
own life is God’s teacher.


After all these years, I think that this is what happens when we finally see beyond the “glass darkly” :

No matter how much we anthropomorphize God, God is the Mystery of Life. And what an amazing, beautiful, rich, mysterious, wondrous thing.

How much freedom and joy we know depends on how much we honour and embrace all Life offers, “good” or “bad”.

There is no Devil and there is no punishing God. Life contains every aspect of the human experience. Our choices determine what that experience is like.

Any religion worth its salt will teach us the Wisdom that makes Life a wondrous Journey. It will tell us that we never need be held prisoner by our failures, and how to be free to begin again forever.

No one else is responsible for our Life’s choices but ourselves. We must help each other learn this. Of course, we help each other on this Journey. We “bear each others’ burdens”.

All Life is interconnected. What one does affects us all, and will eventually show up on our lives in some way.

We do not need “redeeming” if that means being relieved of our Freedom and Responsibility. What we need is the constant reminder of our intimacy with Life, with “God”.

Life offers us Life at every step. That is the true meaning of Love. It is the highest gift we can offer each other.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, July 11, 2010

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho,
and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him,
beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. …..
a Samaritan ….. was moved with pity ….. looked after
him ….. Jesus said ….. "Go and do likewise."

Jesus of Nazareth, in a parable.
[ Gospel reading for this Sunday]

I give thanks to the Good News called Luke. We wouldn’t have this story otherwise.

The priest and the Levite - such “upright” Jews, the highest representatives of God’s love – simply “passed by on the other side”. Who gave a shit about an unfortunate victim whom touching would make a “righteous” Jew ritually unclean! But the non-Jew Samaritan – trust Jesus to chose him to make His point! - whom the Jews despised, showed compassion, generosity, and self-giving love – he did everything to attend to the man.

This is such a powerful parable – and those who heard it must have been stunned by its power, by its rolling into their hearts, by its jolting them into thinking about how faithful or more likely not they had been in serving and emulating their Heavenly Father, and understanding God’s Will.

The point? Any rule of religion which turns us away from acting in compassion and generous concern for another, no matter who they are, friend or enemy, is the deepest insult to “God”. And to our Humanity.

“Go and do likewise.” There are no legitimate alternatives.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, July 9, 2010

Make yourself free from self at one stroke!
Like a sword be without trace of soft iron;
Like a steel mirror, scour off all rust with contrition.


Rumi says, “Make yourself free from self”. Yet, lots of guides today are saying, Be Your Self! Words - they can be so confusing. What’s going on here?

In this case, “self” can be both positive and negative, “spiritually” speaking. Just as “ego” can. The real question, I think, is about healthiness or unhealthiness. And the issue is about “killing” the unhealthy ego or self, and about giving life to the healthy ego or self.

What we seem to be talking about is either the complete Self or the incomplete Self. This is, I think, true of all spiritualities or psychologies. The complete Self is a personal identity that has made contact with and joined forces with the Energy of All Being. Some call this God. The incomplete Self has not made this connection. Complete Selves understands themselves to be related with and one with all things. This creates positive, life-affirming behaviour. Incomplete Selves do not, but see themselves at odds with or separated from the rest of Existence; this creates all kinds of negative behaviour. St. Paul called the former “works of the spirit”, and the latter, “works of the flesh”. (I wish he hadn’t chosen those words – again, very confusing.)

Anyway: we need to be free of the Incomplete Self and the destructive behaviour it generates. There is only one person who can free ourselves from it. Our Self. No one else.

We should do it surgically like a sharp sword, and with determination, like a strong abrasive scouring brush taken to rusted steel. With courage and trust and faith.

Then we are Free.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, July 8, 2010

God is a metaphor for that which transcends all
levels of intellectual thought. It's as simple as that.

Joseph Campbell, mystic, philosopher

I disagree. (I know; what arrogance, disagreeing with Joseph Campbell!)

I have spent years on the journey into the Mystery we call “God”. I’ve been at it for over 45 years, maybe more if I count my very young years when I was unconsciously asking the pertinent questions.

God cannot transcend intellectual thought. Intellectual thought is an essential characteristic of being an authentic human being. It joins with Intuition and with Feeling and with Reason – if indeed Reason and Intellectual Thought are different – as part of the capacity of human Life.

My own Journey has had many dimensions: Mystical, Feeling, Intuition, Reason. Recently – I would say within the last few years – I have finally come to an Understanding of “God”. It is essentially based in Intellectual Thought – which has certainly been assisted by the others. I can now shut my eyes, clear my head, and I understand what God is. I intellectually perceive the deep vastness of Being. I know that I am integrated with that vastness of Being – and my Heart and Mind and Reason and Intuition act as “handmaidens” in this gloriously freeing and expanding knowledge. I know that I am one with All that Is – and it is my Intellect, which has been honoured by Mystery, which is the bearer of this Knowledge. It makes me feel solidly human - like a person free of “sandy ground”. My intellectual thought feels like I have reached “the house built on rock”.

What God is is a metaphor – on this Campbell is correct – “for all that transcends all levels” of Mortal Limitation. In this elegant Earthly existence, we are graciously hidden from what St. Paul would call the fullness of knowledge in the Dark Glass.

This is a great gift! One of the great blessings of this Earthly Life is to journey without Certainties. This reality is one of the basic characteristics of the wonder of human existence,

Let us journey with Joy, and without Fear, on this path. It is one of the greatest possibilities – as I understand the Gospel – that “Jesus” and others gave us.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them
tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I
break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally
responsible for everything I do.

Robert Heinlein, visionary, author, “science fiction” writer,
born on thus date, 1907

I agree.

Brian McHugh, on his 64th birthday (born on this date 1946)

These days, nobody wants to take responsibility. (Pardon the exaggeration.) Everything is someone else’s fault.

One of the glories of being Human is, I think, to Be Responsible for One’s Actions. This is to be God-like! By which I mean, to be Fully Human.

I desire to be “morally responsible for everything I do”. It tells me that I indeed I am Free. How I wish my country aspired to the same standard. We claim to be Free – but we are not.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Michael Weinstein .. provided me with another view of AIDS in Los Angeles.
He invited several of us at the conference to attend gratis an elegant fund raiser
at the Beverly Hills Hotel. A large crowd paying $200.00 per person packed the
place, representing everyone from Beverly Hills matrons to Blacks and Hispanics,
Rabbis and Priests, theatre people, as well as Lesbians and Gay men. AIDS had
touched all our lives somehow and we were all there, we had all come together for
this.....An elegant dinner -Thelma Houston performed. And as she sang, people got
up to dance. Gay men in tuxedos openly and proudly dancing with each other,
Lesbians in evening dresses holding each other, all mixed with compassionate
heterosexual couples, including Rabbis and Priests. How far have we come to be
able to see this. The positive aspect of AIDS is that it can join together so many
different elements of our society." [ 1989]

Bruce Natke, my dear friend, AIDS activist,
wonderful, funny guy. I gave his eulogy.

It’s Gay Pride soon in San Diego, where Dennis and I are now living. We are going to be walking in the Gay Pride parade with the members of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul, where we worship. They are receiving an honour for their friendship and ministry to Gayfolk with AIDS.

Ah, what a character Bruce was! I loved him and it was a privilege to be his friend and to minister to him through his struggle with AIDS and his death. I and his mother Shirley are still friends; she is 87 now, bless her. One day I got a call from Bruce; could I come by. He asked me if I would give the eulogy at his funeral. I said it would be an honour. Being the “controlling” person he was, he said that he would like to see it before he died! Nope, I said; you can hear it after you’re dead! We laughed. (He was a Jew who didn’t believe in the Afterlife.) That was a wonderful celebration of his Life at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence. I went there with him to chose the “plot”. He wanted one with a nice view. The day before I left Providence for good, I went to his grave and left a flower.

I often re-read Bruce’s letter. I need to be reminded that many people can be loving and compassionate and intelligent and reasonable and caring ….. and unthreatened by Life’s reality, and open to new joys.

As a Christian priest, I believe without question that Humanity is a widely diverse Reality. Many narrow-minded people try to deny that Wideness - out of Fear, I believe – which leads me to speculate that they have been badly or sadly raised. In terms of the Christian Myth, I believe that the “Spirit” was indeed sent to lead us day by day into “new truths” – and that “new truths” are the essence and wonder of Life and Being. And human progress in the ways of Compassion and Love.

Thank you Bruce for being my friend and for teaching me more about the wonder of being Human, Dennis and I will be holding you in our thoughts as we “march” with the good people of St Paul’s in the Gay Pride Parade!


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, July 5, 2010

A hurtful act is the transference to others of
the degradation which we bear in ourselves.

Simone Weil, philosopher, mystic

“Self-examination” has been a long spiritual discipline in the Christian faith. My favourite “office” when I was a monk was Compline – the evening office said just before retiring for the day. It has beautiful psalms, including Ps. 91 – one I deeply love. My most beautiful experience of Compline was at Gethsemane Abbey where Thomas Merton spent his life. Compline was offered at 8:30pm. The chapel – stark and simple – was in total darkness, except for one votive light which hung over the lectern on which sat the Bible. In the total darkness, the cantor’s voice suddenly intoned the Office’s beginning Versicle: “O God, make speed to save us!”. It sent chills up my spine every night.

The purpose of self-examination is self-awareness. Knowing the truth about ourselves is, I would say, the primary stepping stone to liberation and to growth into our full humanity as “God” has shaped and destined it.

Of course it is unloving to act hurtfully towards another. But we will not be able to move beyond acting hurtfully towards others until we recognize, as Madame Weil so wisely points out, that such acts do indeed proceed from the lack of understanding and respect we have for ourselves. We forget how much God delights in our Loving! How much God understands our failures in Love. And that those failures in love towards others flow from our forgetfulness of our Beauty. All people are just like us; we act out of “the degradation which we bear in ourselves”.

One of the most powerful things that God has said is, “Love others as you are loved”. We are loved unconditionally! God sees us in all our fundamental loveliness and beauty. Once we know this, know it in our souls, we have no need to transfer our own “degradation” to others.

We have imagined such a God. Such imagining is the Mystery of Life working in us, opening us to our human wonder.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, July 2, 2010

Nothing can ever happen twice. In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised and leave without the chance to practice.

You can find the entire cosmos lurking in its least remarkable objects.

Wislawa Szymborska, Polish poet, Nobel laureate, born on thus date, 1923

“Sorry fact”?? I don’t think so!

It is indeed true ( I think; I choose not to believe in pre-lives) that we “arrive here improvised “. This is good, to my thinking. And I have thought about this. It is certainly possible that we have been reincarnated from some previous life; a lot of people in this World believe this. I don’t. Though I must admit that regardless of what people think, the End seems to be the same. We arrive fresh in this Earthly life, without baggage, ready to make a unique go of it. And we have one Journey in this earthly, bodily existence. Do I know that this is the case. No. I don’t think anyone of us does. There are just various possibilities – and we can choose any one of them, depending on how they resonate with what our Intuition and our careful listening to religion and philosophy and our amazing Mind offer us. But: the choice is ours, to use as we choose.

“Arriving Improvised” and “Leaving Without the Chance to Practice” can be seen as the glory of human life! It’s a grand Adventure – as it should be. There is nothing before that hinders us, nothing about “what comes after” that constrains us from Going For It! So much of Religion has tried to distract us from really living this Life we have here on Earth enthusiastically and joyously and with Abandonment! “Be hesitant” it often says; don’t take risks; avoid making “mistakes” lest you screw up your chances; deny the challenges and the wonders and the leaps Life offers.

No thanks. Many religions have tried to bind us, in an attempt to control us and bend us in their desire for power. (Oh, I’m willing to concede that perhaps religions started out with some spiritual integrity, desiring to forward the human community towards the recognition of our divine nature. But once institutionalized, they were easily corrupted.)

We are born free. Free to take every step to create a Life that, each in our own unique way, reflects the Compassion, Love, Kindness, Peacefulness of that God of Love Whom we have created (well, some of us!) out of the magical Imagination that resides at our Core.

Given the Immensity of the Universe, of Being, it would be easy to think that our part in realizing It is negligible.

The “entire Cosmos” lurks in You and in Me.