Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The best mind-altering drug is the truth.

Lily Tomlin, comedienne; she was born
on this date, 1939

Not much to say ….. but plenty to think about for the day. Mind-altering drugs open us up, break open doors to “secret gardens”, invite us to places that we would generally rather avoid because they will demand that we change and evolve ….. which most of the human race both fears and mistrusts. “Rather the devil we know that the devil we don’t”.

The Great Teachers of the ages make it perfectly clear that in order to advance into our elegant Humanity we must change and grow and be transfigured. By Mystery, which many call “God”. Sometimes by the slow dripping of water. Sometimes by Fire.

I have had several instances in my Life when I have been “shown the truth” ….. and it definitely “altered my mind”. Sometimes it was like being hit with a hammer. Sometimes it took awhile, like rivers cutting canyons. It all depends on how receptive we are ….. and that depends on our practical teachers in the development of the heart, mind, and spirit. Our inability to “pay attention”, to be attuned to Reality and Truth as it is ministered to us, is directly proportional to our evolution into the higher levels of Being.

“What is Truth”, said Pilate to Jesus. And therein lies our Life’s work: to know that which will set us free.

Lily also said the following – offered in honour of the wonderful humour she has regaled us with for so many years! But don’t read it if you have a streak of prudishness! (scroll down, lest there be young or squeamish minds reading this). She may have hit the nail on the head, and proved the compassion of Evolution!

We have reason to believe that man first walked upright to free his hands for masturbation.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, August 30, 2010

There seems to be some perverse human characteristic
that likes to make easy things difficult.

Warren Buffett, multi-billionaire, philanthropist,
born on this date, 1930 (he is 80 today)

Warren Buffett is reputed to be the second richest man in the World, next to Bill Gates ….. though I hear rumours that a Mexican gentleman may have surpassed them both. Warren Buffett recently gave about $31 billion dollars to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, so that the Foundation can assist in helping to improve the lives of the World’s peoples in various ways.

Sounds evolved and gracious to me ….. like something that someone who has learned a certain Wisdom about what it means to be Human would do.

And it sounds like something that any of us could do on some level, including both money and other ways of gifting the World.

I agree with Mr. Buffett: we human beings perversely like to “make easy things difficult”. We lie – to ourselves and to others - and the tangled webs we weave grow and grow until we are all trapped, wrapped, and ready to be devoured. I feel it is like that now in the World. Perhaps it has always been so. It really is easier to be simply Honest. Easier to apologize than to be defensive. Easier to be generous than to be fearful. Easier to accept a new “truth” than to become stuck in stubborn habits of building barriers. “Easier” meaning that we can learn that Simplicity is freeing and perverse difficulty destructive. You can build your own personal list.

But we must do the Work. Starting with – and persevering in – self-knowledge. We must do the work of shedding self-deception and assumptions and greed and pride and envy and self-righteousness – all the things that great teachers and sages and deities have “told us” over the millennia.

I recommend this Path. Mostly because it is a joyous and inspiring and giddy and deeply humanizing Path. I haven’t risen to great heights on it. But I have had tastes. You probably have too. And even tiny tastes are a foretaste of ….. well, “Heaven” or “Nirvana” or “The Celestial Banquet” or “Ecstasy” or “Transformation” or whatever you want to call it. Right here, on this Earth.

Jesus said, “My yolk is easy and My burden light”. We perversely have made it “difficult”.

Those who have ears to hear, let us hear.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Saturday, August 28, 2010

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.
"When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the
place of honor ….. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so
that when your host comes, he may say to you, `Friend, move up higher'; then you
will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt
themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
He said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not
invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite
you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the
crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you,
for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

The version of the Gospel called “Luke”, Chapter 14
[ for those unfamiliar with the Gospel, the full text can be found
http://www.io.com/~kellywp/YearC_RCL/Pentecost/CProp17_RCL.html ]

This is, in my view, a parable about the House of the Soul. Your and my Soul, i.e., the Being that we are and are developing into.

We are the Inviter, the “Pharisee”. And as that Pharisee, we exhibit certain characteristics. We are proud; we are often seeking to prove our worth by inviting into the House of our Soul “worthy”, well-thought-of Characters (read Characteristics). We are jockeying those we invite, pandering to them according to the value we put on them. To some we say, “Take the higher place, and some we banish to the lowest. If our “honoured guests” had names at the banquet in the House of the Soul, they would be names like “Honour”, “Reputation”, “Learnedness”, “Position”, “Power”. Those with names like “Weakness”, “Pride”, “Cravenness”, “Fawning”, “Kiss-Ass”, etc we would assign the “lowest” place at the Table.

The advice Jesus has for each of us, when it comes to the nurturing of our Being, of our Person, is: Don’t enthrone those aspects of your personality which seduce you and mislead you on this momentous Path of Becoming. In the Parable, these are your “brothers, friends, relatives, rich neighbours”, etc. Pandering to these Characteristics just traps you in a place where nothing of improvement happens. It’s those Characteristics that the Parable calls “the poor, the lame, the blind” which offer growth. Each of us knows what these Characters are ………. and we know deep gown that pandering to them holds us back from Growth.

Jesus wants us to hold out to “God”, to that great Mystery of Life at the core of all things, those aspects of our Nature which need to be touched by Goodness and Truth and Grace and Beauty and Humility, Humility being essentially Reality. These aspects will be the things about ourselves we least like. But any good psychologist or priest will tell you that these are just the things that need to sit at the head of the table near to the One Who has the power to call us to Wholeness of Being.

The more we are able to hold out to Transformation those least appealing parts of our human nature, the faster we become Whole.

In other words: Embrace the “dark side”, and hold it fearlessly to the Light.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, August 26, 2010

All critics should be assassinated.

Man Ray, artist, born on this date,

He made glorious images! I really appreciate Man Ray’s work!

His words may sound a little harsh ……… but so do the words of Jesus and other great Teachers on every level.

Let me be succinct. Essentially, negative gratuitous criticism is a way of denying Humanity to people. I have sat, on dark nights illuminated by kerosene lanterns, in Brazilian and Nicaraguan and West African villages, while people sang or put on plays or enacted “pageants”. I could have compared them to such things I knew in North America and “found fault”. I was never tempted ….. why I don’t know; did I inherit some gene somewhere? Was/is it in my DNA?

What Human Beings “produce” from the creativity of the mind is not to be evaluated for material or social or political worth. It is an expression of their Humanity, and of their moment in the process of the living out that Humanity “in fear and trembling”. This process is an act of intrinsic and inestimable value. It should never be judged from any crass or pompous or “right or wrong” dimension.

Critics are the pawns of a society’s disintegration. Rather, we Human Beings are destined to be handmaids to each other in becoming fully Human. It is beneath us as Human Beings to “criticize” others. Rather, it is a joy of the spirit to see, in the ritual or artistic expression of our fellow beings, the emergence of their Being.

Even better, to “sacrifice” some of our Self in order to give them Life. This is, in part, the meaning of the Cross.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It is the want to know the end that
makes us believe in God, or witchcraft -
believe, at least, in something.

Truman Capote, author; he died on
this date, 1984, age 59

Perhaps. But it isn’t that simple – and I think that Truman knew that. But, we all write things to make a point. Jesus certainly did, as did/do other great teachers; they focus on one aspect to make the point. One can’t say everything about or deal with every aspect of an issue or question.

“The end”. There are very few people who want “the end’ to be bad or ugly or painful, etc. Oh, there are lots of religions that propose a God Who will make it that if we don’t shape up and be Good! But I think very few people really believe in such a God or “Hell”! Most people are not so masochistic or self-hating. Most people want “Happily Ever After”. And it certainly does help us to get on with our Life here on the Earth if we have some sense that in the end it will all work out OK, usually with a combination of effort on our part and a pile of “grace” from the Deity.

I have come to the place where I don’t really need to know what “comes after”. It could be Bliss or it could be Nothing or it could be any number of things. What I do need is to believe that I can do my best to make this wonderful Life we have been “given” as caring and loving and wondrous as it can be, in the face of both the wonder and the suffering that Life can hold. For me, and for as many others as I can embrace.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, August 22, 2010

As human beings, we are endowed with freedom
of choice, and we cannot shuffle off our responsibility
upon the shoulders of God or nature. We must
shoulder it ourselves.

Arnold Toynbee, English economist and social
reformer; born on this date, 1852

The kind of God that many pay worship to is a projection of out own unwillingness to step up to the plate and lay claim to the majesty and wonder of our humanity. You know: the God “out there” who will fix things, take care of us, as if we were helpless creatures who were made to grovel before a capricious Deity.

In my opinion, there is no “God Out There”. There is only the God Within, the “God” Who is the incandescent fire of our Being. As the mystics of almost all faiths and religions know, that God and we are One.

Scary? Scary to think that Toynbee is right – that we are and must be responsible for our own lives? I don’t find it so. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I indeed believe that knowing the God Within – and that can be hard work! – will provide us with the power we need to live our lives with power and grace. But there is no power and grace unless we accept our responsibility and our freedom. To the “God Out There” we are only slaves. To the “God Within” we are daughters and sons.

“We are endowed with freedom of choice.” Choose freedom. Be fully human. The Journey is amazing.


By the way: today is the birthday of the comedian Mark Russell. Here’s a laugh from him:

“The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage. “

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, August 21, 2010

"You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox
or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?
And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan
bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the
sabbath day?" When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame;
and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he
was doing.

Jesus, in Luke 13 – for Sunday, Aug 22 [Prop 16, Year C, RCL]

Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote (in his book “The Sabbath”):

The higher goal of spiritual living is not to amass a wealth
of information, but to face sacred moments. ... The meaning
of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days
a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the
Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is
a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal
in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery
of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.

Two things to ponder today. One: Engaging the “sacred moment”. The woman didn’t even ask Jesus to be healed of her arthritis or bad back or whatever; she just was in the right place at the right time. This is our spiritual work always – to keep ourselves “in the sacred moment”. That’s where we connect with the Mystery, the energy, of Life. The religious leaders objected to Jesus healing on the Sabbath; they told the people to go away! We need to be wary of “religion” that misdirects us from atunement.

Two: the woman was “bent over” for 18 years. She saw only the ground. She’s a metaphor for us: Look up! “The ground” represents our just being materially alive. “Straightening up” represents finding the inner spirit that draws us into the full Mystery of Life, “to share in what is eternal in time”.

May our every day be a Sabbath. May we live joyfully and fully in the “sacred moment”.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, August 20, 2010

If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together
to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work but
rather, teach them to long for the endless immensity of the

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

THAT is what “religion”, as the handmaiden of Faith, should be about! Teaching us “to long for the endless immensity of the sea”.

The Church is “a ship”. We should be building it. But alas we keeping trying to build it by “herding people together to collect wood “ and assigning them “tasks and work”. We Christians who are “being the church” does mean that we have to build. But we too often forget the Essence.

The Longing! That is the Essence!!!!

This principle is so very true of so many human things! Relationships, Love, Charity, etc. The building of them does require that we remember the Heart of it all: “seeing” and “longing for “the endless immensity of the Sea”. The Universe and Ourselves are two of those Immensities. “God”, properly understood, is as well.

Are you a Builder of Ships? Are you a person longing to set sail on the Immense Sea?

Paint the “endless Immensity”. Seek it.

The “Ship” will build Itself.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, August 19, 2010

We must question the story logic of having an
all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty
Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.

Gene Roddenberry, creator of the “Star Trek” series;
he was born on this day, 1921, in El Paso TX

Some Biblical character said, “Can anything good come from Galilee?” The same might be said (not by me, who am the soul of charity!) about El Paso. But! Apparently Yes!

I am an absolute besotted devotee, disciple, “groupie” (though I don’t exhibit groupie behaviour) of Gene and Star Trek. I have seen, I think, most of the episodes ((from all the various offshoots too), own all the DVD’s, and (I confess) settle down to watch it at 1pm every day on Sci-Fi (or record it if I have to be out) to make sure I haven’t missed any!

Why? Various reasons. It is “Myth”, which for me is the core method of communication and transmission of Meaning. Star Trek is in a venerable tradition thousands of years old. Also, Star Trek is based on certain assumptions – including the elimination of “God” as popularly understood – with which I agree. Another is: Don’t screw with other peoples’ cultures and traditions; honour them. So-called “religious” people of the “in-the-box” persuasion could learn a lot from Star Trek – but of course they won’t and don’t because that is a character of their victimization.

It was not God (and a “He”, note) Who created faulty Human Beings after Himself and then blamed them for their own mistakes. It was a peculiarly self-loathing, self-unrealistic, self-unappreciative Humanity who did that! And this is the major problem with so-called “Scriptures”. They have been made idols of. And like all idols, they are False – as are the deities they portray.

Any person who has taken the time to open her or his mind and heart and spirit to the Mystery we call “God”, and taken the time to do what Jesus said and “love themselves as they are loved” sees immediately the charming but destructive silliness of believing in a God who “creates faulty humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes”.

One thing I believe: when we have embraced our own spectacular beauty and wonder, our “God” will follow along in equal Majesty!

Thanks Gene for what you have added to our lives. I wish I had known you personally!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Existence is a series of footnotes to a
vast, obscure, unfinished masterpiece.

Vladimir Nabokov. His novel “Lolita” was
published on this date, 1958, in NY (3 years
after it’s Paris publication – stupid American
prudery and hypocrisy!)

I read “Lolita” with a flashlight under the covers in about 1960. I was about 14-15. Enough said. Suffice it to say, I was confused about sexuality.

I “believe” in the uniqueness of each individual person. And I rather like the idea of that uniqueness. But you know, it’s extremely stressful! In one sense, each of us is the “be all and end all” of Life ….. but not really! And I say, thank God.

It is indeed important for us to value the ultimate worth and uniqueness of each person. That valuing is what lies at the base of the wisdom that says, “Do to others as you would have done to you”. No one can be denigrated, made inferior, mistreated, subjugated (which is why I won’t say that line in the Eucharistic Prayer that says “put all things in subjection under your Christ”; the Bible says we are brothers and sisters and friends and heirs of the Christ, not “subjects”).

But: while each of our lives is a glorious jewel in the universe of Humanity, I think Nabokov is spot on. Our personal existence is “a series of footnotes to a vast, obscure, unfinished masterpiece”. No one knows what that masterpiece IS; but we intuit it – at least I do! The Gospels call it “The Kingdom of God”. That moment when all is “as it should be”.

I love the freedom of knowing that my Life, all our lives, are in a flowing stream of Life. While I am a little cynical about the possibility of achieving a “Kingdom of God”, I do think it is important to balance a sense of “reality” about the fate of Humanity with a hope for possible improvement.

Is there an “unfinished masterpiece” anywhere, of any description, in the future? Who knows!

But Nabokov’s words encourage me: “Make your Life an exquisite brushstroke in the Masterpiece that is being painted”. What is at the “end” doesn’t matter. Our lives do.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, August 14, 2010

Jesus said, "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided ….. He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, `It is going to rain'; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?"

The “canonical” Gospel called Luke, chapter 12 [for the Liturgy, Aug 15, Proper 15C_RCL]

As always, the Christ speaks about our transformation into the fullness of our Humanity. The text was later interpreted as if Jesus was predicting something in Time, but originally He was speaking of inner consciousness.

“Fire” is the symbolic instrument of transformation. Here, Jesus is “anxious” because He is the manifestation of the eternal godman, who comes announcing the “time” for transformation – but it isn’t happening! People aren’t paying attention, except on a superficial level. Until we human beings understand our full true nature as part of “God”, there is no “Peace”. His message can only bring “division” both within the individual human soul and within the human community. Some people will be open and hearing, some not. This only creates division between people.

Jesus challenges them/us: “you” understand the message of earthly signs – weather, etc. But we ignore the signs of human life that tell us we are living superficially, not out of the fullness of our Humanity.

There are plenty of those signs today around us in our World – and there always are! . It is time to listen, to interpret the meaning of the divisions and hatred and prejudice and fear and anger and warlikeness. They are signs that we are on a path of destruction.

It’s time to “wake up”. If we continue to sleep, Love and Life and Joy and Community will elude usm and our lives will continue to wither and pale.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Now that I know
How passion warms little
Of flesh in the mould,
And treasure is brittle,--

I'll lie here and learn
How, over their ground
Trees make a long shadow
And a light sound.

Louise Bogan, poet, born
on this date, 1897, in Maine

I’m for passion. Intellectual, sexual ….. though I’m not sure about emotional. However, I agree with Louise Bogan that, in the end, “passion warms little”, seen on a scale of what is ultimately freeing in Life ….. and I am big on Freedom, appropriately understood.

Treasure. Jesus (and others) nailed that one. “Things” lived with can bring pleasure and beauty and usefulness. Unless we burden them with power they do not have. They offer no ultimate meaning or self-worth.

My mind is buzzing, because I can see many aspects of the Tree as a metaphor. One is: a Tree is a fine and simple metaphor for Authenticity. And while it may be difficult to define “authentic”, let alone achieve some measure of it, I like the idea that an authentic person casts a “long shadow” in the World – not intentionally but intrinsically. To the shadow of such a person many will come for rest and shelter, like beautiful cows under a tree in a sunny field.

And I like the idea that an authentic person has no need to make a loud sound in the World. The “sound” of authenticity is “light”. It welcomes but does not impose. It gives me a deeper understanding of words attributed to Jesus: “My yoke is easy and my burden light”.

In this World, it is important I think, as early as we can, to “lie here and learn how”.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can
adjust my sails to always reach my destination.

Jimmy Dean. He is 82 today! Love the sausages!

We think that we can “change the direction of the wind” ….. i.e., control all that goes on around us so we have our way.

Nope. Lesson #1. “The wind blows where it wills.” This is the Mystery, the “given” of Life.

We can ….. and must ….. “adjust”. Life is greater than we are individually. Because we are part of the One. Everything Everyone and Everything does or thinks changes the flow. Human creativity rises to the Majesty of Life. That is our partnership.

That’s Lesson #2.

Will you always reach your “destination”? No. I think Jimmy is being overly optimistic ….. but that’s OK. Human beings are supposed, I think, to “think big”. Supposed to hope greatly and think greatly and expect greatly. That’s our Nature. But we also have to accept that things may not work out in the Great Dance of Life!

C’est la vie. Lesson #3.

So. Test the wind. Adjust your sails. And when you find you’re about to crash on the shoals ….. be ingenious! Life is an endless adventure of flexibility!



Thursday, August 5, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, August 6, 2010

Many people who did not die right away came down with nausea, headache, diarrhea,
malaise, and fever, which lasted several days. Doctors could not be certain whether
some of these symptoms were the result of radiation or nervous shock.

The doctors realized in retrospect that even though most of these dead had also suffered
from burns and blast effects, they had absorbed enough radiation to kill them. The rays
simply destroyed body cells - caused their nuclei to degenerate and broke their walls.

The first stage had been all over before the doctors even knew they were dealing with a
new sickness; it was the direct reaction to the bombardment of the body, at the moment
when the bomb went off, by neutrons, beta particles, and gamma rays.

The second stage set in ten or fifteen days after the bombing. Its first symptom was falling
hair. Diarrhea and fever, which in some cases went as high as 106, came next.

The third stage was the reaction that came when the body struggled to compensate for its ills –
when, for instance, the white count not only returned to normal but increased to much higher
than normal levels.

What has kept the world safe from the bomb since 1945 has not been deterrence, in the sense
of fear of specific weapons, so much as it's been memory. The memory of what happened at

John Hersey. On this day, 1945, the United States dropped an
atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. 66,000 were instantly killed.
Untold thousands suffered afterwards, and they still do,
generations later.

Keep two visions in mind. That of Hiroshima. Blinding light. Inestimable power. Blazing light. This is the image of Death.

And that of the “icon” of the Transfiguration of Jesus on the Mount. Blinding light. Inestimable power. Blazing light. This is the image of Life.

Hiroshima happened “out there”. The Transfiguration must happen “in here”.

We choose Death, or Life.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day and Night

Through my heart's palace Thoughts unnumbered throng;
And there, most quiet and, as a child, most wise,
High-throned you sit, and gracious. All day long
Great Hopes gold-armoured, jester Fantasies,
And pilgrim Dreams, and little beggar Sighs,
Bow to your benediction, go their way.
And the grave jewelled courtier Memories
Worship and love and tend you, all the day.

But when I sleep, and all my thoughts go straying,
When the high session of the day is ended,
And darkness comes; then, with the waning light,
By lilied maidens on your way attended,
Proud from the wonted throne, superbly swaying,
You, like a queen, pass out into the night.

Rupert Brooke, English poet, born on this date,
1887 (died 1915)

Gnostics say that we must “awaken” to the fact of our “essential being”. Which means – and God knows it’s a real challenge to know what anything means in Life! – to become aware that we are One with everything, that our Reality is One with the Mystery we call “God”.

One thing this “means” is that Life will happen. Humans have two things to do at the same time: participate in Life in our “apparent being”, i.e., our material form, and “watch” ourselves doing so.

There is a certain calmness, a certain majesty, a certain dignity about the procession of our days. I am beginning to experience it more and more – though why I am not quite certain. Is it because in part this is what happens as one ages, both chronologically and emotionally, etc? I think so – but I guess that this does not happen unless we really take the time to be open and to learn this Path.

I am besotted with Rupert Brooke! Before I die, I want Dennis and I to make a “pilgrimage” to the Greek island of Skyros where, at the age of 27, Brooke died and was buried there in a lemon grove. I’ve told Dennis that I want my ashes to be scattered in Firenze and Montfort – but I think I will revise that and have a bit taken to Skyros!

Rupert has, for me, caught in this poem the calm “procession” of Day and Night, of Life. With whatever enthusiasm we live Life “here” – and the Gnostics would say that it should be lived enthusiastically in the present moment! – it is deeply enhanced against the backdrop of Day “most wise” on her throne and “like a queen” passing “out into the night”.

This, I think, is what is meant by “resting in God”.