Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
How I wish we lived in a time when laws were
not necessary to safeguard us from discrimination.
Barbara Streisand, popular diva; on this date, after 22 years, she
performed her first paid concert, sold out, in Las Vegas, 1993
If “God” were an Entity to have feelings, “God’ would be delighted with our evolvement.
Any chance for 2011??
It will be tough going against the Republicans.
But let’s give it a go.
God dwells in you, as you, and you don't have
to 'do' anything to be God-realized or Self-realized,
it is already your true and natural state. Just drop
all seeking, turn your attention inward, and sacrifice
your mind to the One Self radiating in the Heart of
your very being. For this to be your own presently
lived experience, Self-Inquiry is the one direct and
Ramana Maharshi, Hindu philosopher
and yogi; born on this date, 1879
What I “worry” about is this: what do most people see when they “turn your attention inward”??? Now, I know what I see ….. and it actually didn’t take very long, now that I think about it. I “see” - and have seen since I was in my early twenties and left Canada to join the Order of the Holy Cross – a beautiful man. I have never had a moment’s doubt about that, despite the many times that that truth failed to manifest in my behaviour, for the many reasons that we human beings all struggle to manifest the “One Self radiating in the Heart “ of my very Being.
I am often grateful that I was born in Canada in the fourties. Homosexuality was “whispered about”, but there was little overt ranting. It is a little bit ironic that I came to the USA age 21, to a religious order where almost everyone was Gay, but to a society that was rife with hate against Gayfolk (and still is). But, that’s how Mystery works. I landed in a setting that affirmed being Gay, and in a religious setting where God affirmed Gayfolk unconditionally. Funny, eh?!
“Turn your attention inward, and sacrifice your mind to the One Self radiating in the Heart of your very being”. And, if you don’t find a beautiful person, practice Self –Inquiry.
The beautiful person you are IS there. Just push aside all the other nonsense.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Modern man must descend the spiral of his own
absurdity to the lowest point; only then can he
look beyond it. It is obviously impossible to get
around it, jump over it, or simply avoid it.
Vaclav Havel, playwright; on this date, 1989,
he was elected President of Czechoslovakia, the
first non-Communist to hold the post in over 40
Havel wrote a lot about Hope. He accurately said, “Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.”
From his words I take Hope. I think that the World has almost reached the bottom rung of the spiral of its own absurdity. Not that it hasn’t happened before ….. but that is not the point. It’s important that we have reached that stage once again for our own sakes. We are still playing at getting around it, jumping over it, avoiding it. But I think that the signs are clear: we are quickly approaching a moment of collapse in a pile of shattered bones.
Which means that Hope ….. real Hope, as Havel identifies it ….. can rise. I, being an optimist (really, I am!) think that most of us know what is “good”. Let us begin to look beyond Absurdity and enact Good in simple ways.
It will spread.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Although none of the rules for becoming
more alive is valid, it is healthy to keep
on formulating them.
Susan Sontag, activist, author, intellectual,
died on this day, 2004, age 71
I often wonder when I read what people have said (a) in what context did they say them, and (b) what was their life like? I want to read their autobiographies – but I can’t afford it, even at Kindle prices! Nor do I have the time ….. because I’m enjoying living my own Life!
I treasure Ms. Sontag. She gave us all much of value. And I agree with Ms. Sontag: it is healthy to keep on formulating “rules” for becoming more alive.
I completely disagree with her that “none of the rules” is valid.
Give. Of everything, including Self. I have tried my best in my Life. And I can tell you: never have I felt more healthy ….. and I have never felt personally diminished or demeaned.
It isn’t a “rule”. It’s the discovery of a Truth, about oneself and about Life. You may wonder why people like Jesus and the Buddha are revered? They fully gave of themselves that others might find Life.
Think about it.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
If there is a supreme being, he's crazy.
Marlene Dietrich, actress, singer, enter-
tainer, beautiful; she was born on this date,
1901, in Berlin.
I’ve been doing these Reflections now for over 5 years. And the more quotes I use, the more I realize that it isn’t easy to find out if the person really said it or not. Perhaps I should always say “attributed to”?? Anyway, I’ll probably hear from someone who thinks Ms. Dietrich didn’t say it; I often do hear from people when they disagree! Anyway, as I have often said, I very often use a quote for my own purpose ….. so I suppose it really doesn’t matter if it was wrongly attributed!
I’ve been to many places in the World. I don’t think I’ve been anywhere where there is a popular picture of God that is as “crazy” as in America. I actually don’t think that this understanding of God is held by the majority of Americans ….. but you wouldn’t know it from the media. I won’t produce a long list of these crazy characteristics; I think you get my point. Suffice it to say that the God portrayed in the “Left Behind” book series (which have sold gazillions) says it all. I hope I die sooner that the authors, so I can be standing at the Pearly Gates to hear what Peter has to say – though I’m sure St. Peter will be gentlemanly, and …… who knows, Marlene might be standing next to him, since she is alleged to have said, “I am at heart a gentleman”.
A plea: could some kind rich soul please give me a billion or two dollars? I’d like to make a retirement career of trying to countermand the concept of the Crazy Supreme Being. I promise not to turn into a weeping televangelist with 42 Rolls Royces, really. But until someone does, could all of us who don’t have a crazy view of the Supreme Being just do a little something now and then, by word or deed, to project a better more accurate understanding?
The Blessed Trinity ….. and I ….. would be most grateful.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Christ is the population of the world,
and every object as well.
There is no room for hypocrisy.
Why bitter soup for healing,
when sweet water is everywhere?
Rumi, Sufi (Muslim) poet, 13th C
Choice. We all have a choice. That is perhaps the central point of the Biblical myth of Adam and Eve: what “voice” do we choose to listen to from within? To the voice of “God”, or to the voice of “the Serpent”? That choice determines the kind of person we will be or strive to be.
Good or Evil? Just or Unjust? Gentle or Belligerent? Proud or Compassionate? Generous or Miserly? Every day we are making choices, consciously or unconsciously, that shape our Humanity and our Identity.
The “coming of Christ” - the “incarnation”, the presence of the Holy in our flesh - speaks, as Rumi knew, to a universal question: Who are we, as a race, as individuals?
The Choice is ours. “Bitter Soup” or “Sweet Water”.
I wish us all this Christmas Day the power and will to choose Sweet Water.
Friday, December 24, 2010
The Christ, symbolizing Life and Light.
There is no handle outside;
We must invite Life in.
[ painting by William Hollum Hunt ]
Brian’s Reflection: Friday, December 24, 2010
Eve of the Incarnation: A Greeting
Who stands at my door in the storm and rain
On the threshold of being?
One who waits till you call him in
From the empty night.
Are you a stranger, out in the storm,
Or has my enemy found me out
On the edge of bring?
I am no stranger who stands at the door
Nor enemy come in the secret night,
I am your child, in darkness and fear
On the verge of being
from “Incarnation”, poem 3,
by Kathleen Raine
Life offers Itself to us all
moment by moment.
On this night of the deepest Mystery
Life comes to stand at our door,
certainly no enemy,
saying “I am your child”.
We both are One.
This sacred night,
invite him in … forever.
Brian & Dennis
Christian Feast of the Incarnation 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Since there's no help, come, let us kiss and part,
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me,
And I am glad, yea, glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love's latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies,
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes,
Now, if thou wouldst, when all have giv'n him over,
From death to life thou might'st him yet recover.
Michael Drayton, English Elizabethan poet;
he died on this date, 1631
On the surface, this seems a poem to a lover about a love that has gone cleanly sour. Perhaps.
I see it as a poem about self-alienation, and about reclaiming one’s Wholeness. And, I think, about what Religion might call Repentance, “turning away from and to”.
It is so easy to be “out of love” with oneself. I know how critical I can be of myself. How annoyed with my seeming stupidity about things. How unconnected with my hope and vision for the person I desire to be. How judgmental of my failures. How alienated from my place in the Universe.
To be able to free oneself “so cleanly” of things in one’s Life that one may have “loved” but which have turned sour and become destructive is one of the great gifts of a life of Faith. Seen clearly and rightly, the path of the Gospel of Christ is such a Faith. It tells us to see honestly the things which are destructive to our humanity and person; to “kiss and part” cleanly; to let go of destructive “loves” so cleanly that “when we meet at any time again / Be it not seen in either of our brows / That we one jot of former love retain”.
Theologically, “Death” is the permitted destruction of an “old Self” so that a “new Self” can emerge. Christians – well, this eclectic Christian anyway! – believe in such a “God” ….. a God Who, “when all have given” us “over”, from “death to life thou might’st” us “yet recover”.
This is a season in which we are asked to honour and welcome into our Selves this Holy Presence Who brings the gift of “clean” Wholeness.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Leonardo da Vinci
One of the “messages” of Incarnation (Latin: meaning, “coming into flesh”) – I prefer this term to “Christmas”, as “Christmas” is a churchy, religious term referring to a church liturgy, and I don’t like that hijacking! – is that the essence of what we call God can be and is found in the human person.
I’ve always thought that God was very clever. God, being by definition Unknowable, figured out that we Humans would get the hint by pandering to our all-too-human Ego. “I’ll be one of Them” She said! And the angelic host chuckled, saying behind their hands to each other, “Really, She is TOO much!”.
Simple, right? And that lovely human Leonardo (Gay, bless his heart) knew that if God is anything, She is “sophisticated” – the meaning of which comes from the Greek “Sophia” meaning knowledge, and means knowing how to be Wise. “I’ll just become Human”, said She ….. and hope that SOME of those humans will get the point. The point being, that WE are the manifestation of the Mystery of Devine. Got it?
Problem: only a few of us seem to get the point, alas. We make all these flowery, grandiose claims for the nature of “God” – Goodness, Love, Compassion, Justice, Kindness – and we claim that we are Children of God made in the Imago Dei ….. and then we mostly reject the connection!
The message of Incarnation is Simple, and therefore ultimately sophisticated:
Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t
claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.
Rumi’s comment points to a real problem most of us have. We miss a great deal of Life, because we can’t just stand in its flow and honour it and let Life leave what it will with us. No. We either have to control it in some way – a sure sign of ill-ease with Life and with our own selves. Or, we have to engage It and manipulate It in some way. We can’t let it Be, in Silence. We can’t just wonder at the Moon- no, we have to plant a flag there, or at the North Pole, or in Space. We have, we human tribes, to gather our “toys”.
When I was a teenager, I used to take my grandmother’s boat and row to the end of our lake. Park it, and follow a path through to the next lake, which was uninhabited. There I would lie on the warm rocks, indulge in sexual fantasies, have my sandwich for lunch, and then float in the warm water and revel in the wonder of that place: the absolute quiet, the sound of the breeze in the leaves, the glittering of the sun on the water, the freshness of the water on my body, the “artistry” of the Earth.
I learned a lesson from Mother Earth. To be a part of Her; not to “claim” Her but to dance with Her; to let Her be and not to desire to reshape Her. It was an important lesson. It has stood me in good stead when it comes to the Mystery of God and of Human Beings ….. including myself.
Does this mean that I just have to let everything Be as it is? Not try to influence it? No, though sometimes! It does mean that respecting everything and everyone initially – letting their artistry move through and being silent - is the best basis for the future.
This Christmas, this Kwanza – whatever holy-day or Mystery may be celebrated – Observe, Feel, Be Silent. It will reveal its deeper or hidden message!
Saturday, December 18, 2010
"Look, the young woman shall conceive and
bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel"
The Gospel called “Matthew”, chapter 1
[ The full text can be found here: http://www.io.com/~kellywp/YearA_RCL/Advent/AAdv4_RCL.html ]
If you are wanting to express the majestic wonder of human persons fully alive, you pull out all the stops! “Matthew” was not able to let go enough, alas. But “Luke” – now whoever pulled together that telling of the story knew how to pull out all the stops!
On this last Sunday of Advent, we are brought back to the conception by Mary of her son. We hear that it is a unique child, a creation of human (Mary) and the Divine (Holy Spirit).
So when we come to the “manger” as we celebrate the Incarnation of Jesus on December 25th, revel in the wonder and beauty and mystery of the Story, certainly. Then let it slowly dissolve before your inner eye. Wonder at the message, as Joseph did from that of the angel. Remember all the fears we each have about opening ourselves in vulnerability and trust to that little fleeting glimpse we get now and then of the sheer ecstasy of flinging ourselves into the vast possibilities of love, of abandonment to generosity, of all that Jesus (and many great teachers of Wisdom) called being “born of the Spirit”.
We are being invited to Come Alive. Invited not to be afraid. The Divine One – that great mystery of Life which we can only barely begin to describe – waits to be born from and in each of us ….. moment by moment, day by day, year by year. Emmanuel: “God” with us. What a Journey if we can throw ourselves into it!
O Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet istud? Quia nec primam similem visa es nec habere sequentem. Filiae Ierusalem, quid me admiramini? Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.
Virgin of Virgins, how shall this be? for neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after: Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? the thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.
To be extravagantly human! It is indeed a ….. Divine Mystery. May we all touch it in our Journey.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter
suaviter disponensque omnia: veni ad
docendum nos viam prudentiae.
O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth
of the most High, and reachest from one end
to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all
things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.
O Sapientia, the first “Great O” Antiphon of Advent
On the evening of December 17 the final phase of preparation for Christmas begins with the first of the great "O Antiphons" of Advent. These prayers are seven jewels of liturgical song, one for each day until Christmas Eve. They seem to sum up all our Advent longing for the Savior.
The "O Antiphons" are intoned with special solemnity in monasteries at Vespers, before and after the Magnificat, Mary's prayer of praise and thanksgiving from the Gospel of Luke (2:42-55), which is sung every evening as the climax of this Hour of the Divine Office.
A vestige of the "Great O's" can be seen in verses of the familiar Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel".
Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).
Wisdom is here personified, present with God at the beginning of creation. This is a prefigurement of Jesus, the eternal Word of God, the "logos" John described in the opening of his gospel. Wisdom is the foundation of fear of the Lord, of holiness, or right living: it is wisdom whom we bid to come and teach us prudence. The cry "Come" will be repeated again and again, insistent and hope- filled.” (Fr. Roger Landry)
Listen, meditate, on Holy Wisdom, and on Prudence.
Music here: http://www.fisheaters.com/audio/sapientia.mp3
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
One of the essential paradoxes of Advent: that while we
wait for God, we are with God all along ,that while we need
to be reassured of God's arrival, or the arrival of our home-
coming, we are already at home. While we wait, we have to
trust, to have faith, but it is God's grace that gives us that faith.
As with all spiritual knowledge, two things are true, and equally
true, at once. The mind can't grasp paradox; it is the know-
ledge of the soul.
Michelle Blake, “The Tentmaker”
Things have been, are now, and will be – and it is all true at the same time. I believe that. We human beings don’t just exist in linear Time, divorced second by second from what has gone before, shut out from the possibilities of the “Future”. The human brain experiences all of it at the same time – the Mysterious Present! The Paradoxical Present. Wonder at what has gone before and expectation of what is Coming form and shape the Present. The skill or art is to learn to live It as One. It sounds weird ….. but we do I think live both “at home” and at the coming “arrival of our homecoming”. In the end, there is no disjuncture, no “great gulfs fixed”.
I think that Blake is correct in what she says, essentially. But I think she is incorrect about one thing: the mind can indeed grasp Paradox. It is, in my opinion, one of the distinguishing elegances of being Human.
“Paradox” comes from the Greek, meaning “contrary to” (para) and “opinion” (doxa – belief). The truth is, two seemingly contradictory things can in fact coexist together as a deeper understanding of Truth. As I think about it, this is what the Council of Nicea was saying (consciously or unconsciously) when it “defined” the doctrine of the Nature of the Christ as “fully Human and fully Divine”. On the surface, it seems absurd to say. But the doctrine of the Incarnation says it! Says that the Divine became Human. And what I find even more important, it also then says that we Humans are also “Divine”.
Advent asks us to poise ourselves to see a grander vision of Who We Are. No, it does not invite us to be grandiose, to “puff ourselves up”. Any intelligent person can just look at oneself or at human history and see what “paradoxes” we are! Such contradiction!
What I value about Advent is that it asks us to see not the lowest common denominator of what it is to be Human, but the “created a little lower than the angels” aspect of being Human!
Advent starts the Christian liturgical year. We will advance through it, challenged by the Liturgy to ponder a plethora of Mysteries, of Paradoxes. But we will start this Journey not as debased beings ….. but as Imagi Dei – manifestations of the Beauty and Wonder that is Life.
Monday, December 13, 2010
The supreme trick of Old Scratch is to have us so busy decorating,
preparing food, practicing music and cleaning in preparation for the
feast of Christmas that we actually miss the coming of Christ. Hurt
feelings, anger, impatience, injured egos—the list of clouds that
busyness creates to blind us to the birth can be long, but it is familiar to us all.
Edward Hayes, “A Pilgrim’s Almanac”
“Old Scratch”. Ah yes. That personified subtle, seemingly eminently rational whisperer that fills our heads with doubts and uncertainties and delusions and fears, “hurt feelings, anger, impatience, injured egos”. With so many things – clouds – distracting us from “birth”.
Becoming fully human, – and when I talk of this, I don’t mean achieving some kind of “perfection”, some kind of super-humanity – taking even the first steps, disturbs whatever it is in us and around us which opposes Goodness, Kindness, Compassion. It is one of the great Mysteries of Life that such an opposition exists in our nature ….. at least it is to me. Yet when I place the moments in my Life when I have chosen Goodness over the (many) times I have turned away from Goodness, I know when I have felt most at Peace, most Myself.
Advent-time – Waiting Time, Longing Time, Searching Time – opens up in our days, inviting us to put aside the clouds of busyness and to be “born” in heart and spirit, to become fully embodied. One can go a long time enveloped in fog; Nicodemus knew that when Jesus gently chastised him for his honoured wisdom in the community but his inner lack of understanding.
No day should pass in our earthly pilgrimage without “the birth”. Somewhere within that birth is “familiar to us all”. It whispers to us eternally, and it is that whisper we are training to hear.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
What has happened to the old-fashioned, spiritual Christmas? The cause is
our disregard of Advent. The church set aside this four-week pre-Christmas
season as a time of spiritual preparation for Christ’s coming. It is a time of
quiet anticipation. If Christ is going to come again into our hearts, there must
be repentance. Without repentance, our hearts will be so full of worldly things
that there will be ‘no room in the inn’ for Christ to be born again.…We have the
joy not of celebration, which is the joy of Christmas, but the joy of Anticipation.
John R. Brokhoff, in “Preaching the Parables”
Christians are in the last full week of the liturgical “season” called Advent. So, I’m going to concentrate on this for the next few days. The word “Advent” derives from the Latin – Coming (venire) To (ad). Advent is, to my mind, a universal “spiritual” season in human lives. In some way, every faith or religion has an Advent – “a time of spiritual preparation for Christ’s coming.”
To be more precise as well as inclusive, “The” Christ’s coming – by which I mean, the preparation of the human heart for the “descent” of the Life-giving Breath of the Divine into each of us. Or, in other words, our awakening to our Human fullness and destiny as the amazing Being that we each Are.
Brokhoff laments the loss of the “old-fashioned, spiritual Christmas”. I do too. Somewhere along the way, the celebration of the Presence of God in the Universe and in each of us – called in Christian terms the “Incarnation” (from the Latin “made flesh in”) – became distorted. And whenever it happened, modern advertising, in its manipulative skill, took the story of the Three Magi Bearing Gifts (a rich symbolic story) and managed to convince us that the Incarnation was all about buying stuff to give to others, or ourselves. Shame on us for being so dull-witted.
Of course I’ll add my “rant” here: let’s forget it! I don’t care if the whole economy collapses if we do forget it! We’ll reorganize. It’s more important to tend to our evolving into our full Humanity!
The Mystery of the Divine coming “again into our hearts” is a daily, momentary thing. The Problem? We human beings can be very – as the Brits would say – “thick”. “The World is too much with us” as I think Shakespeare said. All practice of Religion (from the Latin, meaning “to be re-tied to”) is for the purpose of connecting us to our Path to Wholeness. Hence my occasional warnings that Religion must be monitored regularly to make sure that it is doing its job.
“”Repentance” means (yes, from the Latin! God, I wish that Western education hadn’t been so stupid as to stop teaching Latin; how the hell are young people, or others, ever going to understand Western culture??!!) to “regret or feel sorry”. The implication being that out of regret or sorrow will come an openness to being coaxed towards ….. Beauty. Which is Truth, as someone famously said.
Who, in your deepest either Joy or Despair, have you longed to be? Advent invites us to long for it and expect it.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Truly I tell you, among those born of women
no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
The Gospel called Matthew for Advent III RCL, Chap 11
Here is the full text if you would like to read it: http://www.io.com/~kellywp/YearA_RCL/Advent/AAdv3_RCL.html
Jesus’ point is clear here. There is no inferiorization of John the Baptist. Nor of women. Jesus deeply honours John as the Forerunner, the Announcer, the “one who come before”. And in no way is he denigrating women or the fact that we are all “born of women”.
Jesus is simply and clearly pointing out that being born into the “Kingdom of God” is a “new birth” in the Spirit of God. That when we step over into that Kingdom of Love, Justice, Compassion, of “loving one another as He loved us”, we are in a new dimension of Life. We no longer are just “born of woman” – “flesh” is the Biblical term - ; we have made contact with the Mystery of God and have entered a new dimension of Life, a new dimension of what it means to be Human . If we were Buddhists, we would say that we have been Enlightened. If we were Hindu, we would say that we have been reincarnated into a higher level of Life, closer to eternal Freedom. But it all means the same thing: we have been “quickened” ….. a new depth of Life has been revealed. In the Genesis “Creation Myth”, it is the moment when God breathes Life into the creature of dust.
We all start out fleeing to John the Baptist, drawn into the Wilderness for whatever reason. But at some moment, the Christ, the Presence of the Holy, “descends” upon us as the Spirit descended upon Jesus at his baptism by John. We discover the path to full Humanity, or it is revealed to us in some experience.
Every human being stands – perhaps many times - on the precipice of entering Full Humanity ….. like a baby bird fledging and gathering the courage to leap from the nest and fly ….. souring into “the Kingdom”.
Advent reminds us that we are jumping up and down on the edge of the nest, gazing out over the World, knowing that we are destined to fly.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Imagine! The poet Emily Dickinson was born on this date 180 years ago! My own feeling is that she is not so renown for her technical poetic skill, but rather for her brilliance of thought. She is a great treasure for America. I hope you have – indeed make – some time today to read a little bit about her (thank the deities for Google) and read and ponder a poem or two of hers.
I think the process that Emily describes is one that goes on daily for us. From before our birth in this Earthly life until the time we pass from it. In many ways, we are always like an infant, tottering and falling and having to learn and relearn. If we are fortunate, as our Life is built, we are attended by “the Augur and the Carpenter”, shoring us up and shaping us. As I think of it, “The Augur and the Carpenter” might be a good metaphor for the Mystery we call God.
The “good times” for us are, certainly, the times of loving support. But perhaps better, the times when “the scaffolds drop”. Then we forge ahead on our own, from the moment of careening across the floor on our first steps unassisted, to the moment we face into our Passing with grace and peace and a smile.
I do hope that you have had as good teaching as I have had for this wonderful Journey. The Augurs and the Carpenters have been good, and the drops of the scaffold have been thrilling! I’ve had a wonderful Life, and I wish it for you.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Death is the golden key that
opens the palace of eternity.
John Milton, English poet,
born on this date, 1608
I’m very very glad that I wasn’t born in John Milton’s time or context! So dreary! Dreary religion especially, and it comes across (at least to me) in his poem “Paradise Lost”. I’ve tried to read it several times. Dreary! I can appreciate the skill of the poetry. I can appreciate Milton’s human struggle. But the religious mindset …..Dreary!
Theologically, “Death” is not a moment in sequential Earthly time. Theologically, Death is the adjustment to the reality of mortality, by which we then become free to live.
In general, American Christianity (and it is not alone) does not “get” this. American Christianity has been co-opted by the culture which says that “we can live and be young forever”. It’s a bill of goods we’ve been sold by the purveyors of delusion on which so much of American religion and culture is based.
“Eternity” has little to do with “Pie in the Sky when you Die”. Not as I understand the Gospel. “Eternity” is the inner state of Freedom to Live. The more Reality we can embrace, the more robust that state. I have a lovely friend of 50 who has battled serious cancer. She is, at the moment, “cancer free”. But she recently said that she chooses to indentify as a “person living with cancer”. (I can relate; I am the same.) And I know her well enough that I understand she has chosen the Freedom to Live. She has chosen Eternity. Each of her days has become filled with the whole possibility that resides in the Mystery we call God, Life.
There is a Golden Key. It is anyone’s for the asking.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
The ultimate mystery is one's own self.
Sammy Davis Jr., he was born
on this date, 1925, in Manhattan
What a Life. The only African-American member of the “Rat Pack”; made millions as an entertainer; died in 1990 of throat cancer ….. and in debt to the IRS. Is it not amazing how Life can go?? One day on a golf course with Jack Benny, he was asked what his handicap was. His answer? “I’m a one-eyed Negro Jew”. It’s always a blessing to have a sense of humour!
OK. There are lots of mysteries in the World, in Existence. The World Itself is (I capitalize, because I see the World as a goddess - Gaia); Kindness is; Love is; Time is; Feelings are; Sadness is; Loneliness is; Friends are; The Universe is; Stars are; the Body is; Wonder is. The List is endless ….. and so all things are Mystery.
The Self? Oh yes!! There may be things about the Universe that we both know and know we don’t know ….. in spades! But ….. “one’s own Self”. I have lived in this persona, of this Earth, for nearly 65 years. And I know that I have only scratched the surface about my Self. I constantly amaze myself! Now that I am older, I am more open to learning the reality about my Self. I think about the fact that I/we use only about 10% of our brain, and I am left mouth-agaped. But you know, I am also left with a deep Peace. These days, I wake up knowing that I know very little, and delighted that I will undoubtedly learn something new today. And I rest in a kind of euphoria of Expectation ….. which this Advent season so elegantly pictures.
Oh you young folk! I really hope that this can be a part of your Life right now! I really would love to think that you will get farther than I!
Sunday, December 5, 2010
God is always coming to you in the Sacrament
of the Present Moment. Meet and receive Him
there with gratitude in that sacrament.
Evelyn Underhill, “mystic”, philosopher; she was
born on this date, in England, 1875.
I seem to be on a “jag” about the Now these days. I guess because it’s Advent, with all of its sense of the conflation of Time and Being.
But I have to come clean. I was “brought up” with thinking about Heaven, and what you had to do to get there, and what you had to “do” to convince God to let you in. I’ve been thinking all that stuff these days ….. and I realize that I have never been really interested in “Heaven”. Not since I was 21, and joined the Order of the Holy Cross, and began to read and think. Just like I was give the gift of knowing that being Gay was without any moral condemnation, the gift of naturally being able to live in the Present – and enjoy it – has saved me enormous angst!
Now, I look at this unconcern with “Heaven” as a Gift. Yep, a gift. A gift that the Mystery of God “gave me”. As soon as I began to think about it, I realized that anything one did to win God’s “favor” and attain the Afterlife – like being “good” – was at best manipulation and at worst complete deceit and self-delusion. And every knows – or should know – that God cannot be fooled.
It seems to me that worrying about God in the past or future tense is Avoidance of the mystery of God. I think about the Sacraments – all of them ….. and to the Orthodox Church the number of Sacraments is limitless, God bless them! Unlike the Roman tendency to limited tidiness. I mush prefer the Orthodox vision of Reality. The Earth is “filled with the glory of God / as the waters cover the sea”.
The Sacrament of the Present, of the Now, is indeed perhaps the “perfect” Sacrament. But all Sacraments surely are the same - some simple sensual tangible “thing/s” just waiting to explode with the revelation of greater Majesty? Simple bread and wine at the Eucharist/Communion/Lord’s Supper becoming cellular with out cells and nourishing us with the life of that Mystery of Life we often call God. Bemusing and mind-blowing at the same time.
To the extent that we engage with the Now, with what is happening to us right at this moment, the greater our connection with the vast Mystery that is Life. Life is “What Is” ….. and God is reported once said to Moses, “I AM”!
We human beings like to think that we know how and when God “comes to us”. And by Jove we have made up a barrelful of rules about how that can and can’t happen. You have to believe this, belong to that religion, etc. It’s all Delusion. The great Jesuit spiritual director de Foucauld once said, “God speaks to us in everything that happens to us” ….. and he was right on the money!
We humans exist in the context we call “God”. It is inescapable. It’s a given. All is Stardust, and we have been part of it since the beginning ….. if there was only one.
Partake of the Sacrament of the Present Moment.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who
is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not
worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with
the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his
hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will
gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will
burn with unquenchable fire.
The Gospel called “Matthew”, chapter 3 [for Advent II]
[ Here are the Lessons for the Second Sunday in Advent: And let me say that I hope these ruminations are helpful to all; the Gospel’s words don’t just enlighten Christians! http://www.io.com/~kellywp/YearA_RCL/Advent/AAdv2_RCL.html ]
I’m focusing on the Gospel ….. obviously; though you may find the Readings informatory.
First: we mustn’t assume that ALL the people who went out to see John, called the Baptist, in the Wilderness were hypocrites or stupid. Many must have gone out of deep sense of inner spirit ….. but if we use the statistics of those in parishes who are “committed”, it is about 10-15%! But the story centers on the hypocrites, the self-interested, the opportunistic.
As to language about “end times” and coming judgment and “unquenchable fire”, I keep all that in perspective. I am not concerned generally with “what will come”; I am concerned with who we are NOW and how we live our lives. “End Time” language is a kind of “scare tactic”, mean to get us focused on how we are living now.
This Advent lesson is one of Hope. I is “Good News”! It basically says that the Christ – namely the essence of the power to be fully human as seen from the Gospel perspective, that is, a fully evolved Creature of Love, is Within. And that that Inner Power can be reached. That it is exerting its influence within us, whether we know it or not – it is that Winnowing Fork, seeking to sift out from us all those things that dehumanize us. Is it not a happy thing to contemplate that it is within our very nature to be evolving towards Wholeness and Freedom? Religion is, of course, meant to aid this process. I take heart that the Pharisees and Sadducees had the intuitive sense to go to John; they are the iconic metaphor of our own longing for Holiness.
But the Advent warning is clear. All things are tending towards Wholeness ….. but we must desire it. It seems in the World today that most do NOT desire it ….. and that makes me wonder what people are being taught about Reality. I’ve been (uncharacteristically) watching TV today ….. just to see what is being communicated. It is relentlessly a theology of Salvation by Stuff – mostly Crap. And I know of no religious or secular community that is not under its power. I am particularly saddened these days by Islam, which seems to be caught in a trap of rigid moralism on the one hand and a prideful sense of delusional superiority on the other.
The “Kingdom of God” in WITHIN. If we want Peace, Justice, Joy in our personal and common earthly lives, we must open to transformation.
The “ax is lying at the root of the trees”. Every human heat should rejoice.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
All ambitions are lawful except those which climb
upward on the miseries or credulities of mankind.
Joseph Conrad, novelist (“Heart of Darkness”); he was
born on this date, 1857, in Berdychiv, Russian Empire
Well. So much for the Corporate Empires of the World ….. now “classed” by the Supreme Court of the USA as “Persons” and therefore able to exert, “legally”, all their power and money in maintaining their control of the World. Hang on folks. If you thought that we peons were indentured servants or slaves now, wait and see what the future brings!
The problem with rampant capitalism – along with any political or economic system which has no moral foundation – is that it lacks any connection with human compassion, concern, sense of community, or with any other sense of our common responsibility for each other. I lived for a little while in Liberia in the 70’s, when Firestone Rubber “owned” the country. It didn’t matter how many people died, as long as Firestone made as much money as possible through its rubber plantations. I lived in Nicaragua for awhile in the early 70’s; the country rotted while the dictator Somoza and his cronies (supported by the USA) raped the country. I visited many times in Brasil in the 80’s – the corporate rich lived lavishly while millions of people barely survived in wretched favelas I visited, and children lay dead in streets flowing with human waste.
It is not only the “corporations” which fulfill their ambitions on the miseries of the poor. It is equally many religions which do so on the “credulities of mankind”. People often wonder why I am not “fond” of Mother Theresa. It is because while she may have provided comfort for many sick and dying people, she was perpetuating the conditions that kept so many people in such dreadful condition, all because her religion told her to do so. I admire her charity ….. but not her lack of justice, which God commands us to love.
My understanding of the Gospel and of Jesus tells me that Jesus would agree with Conrad: It is to crucify Him yet again to achieve our ambitions “on the miseries or crudulities of mankind”. And it is even more grievous to do so claiming that we are being loving or charitable.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
An opera begins long before the curtain goes
up and ends long after it has come down. It
starts in my imagination, it becomes my life,
and it stays part of my life long after I've left
the opera house.
Maria Callas, diva; born on this date, 1923
Ah. Maria Callas. Drama personified. Dramatic voice ….. though in my opinion uncontrolled, inaccurate, shrill (like the so-called “period” violins that have become so popular, and which I hate!). But she poured out feeling, emotion. In a singer, that can be seductive!
“Opera” ….. meaning “work”. Life is an Opera. It begins “long before the curtain goes up” ….. i.e., when we are born into this World, so much that has gone before us in the history of the human race will have a tremendous influence on our lives. And as we grow, all that has gone before will invade and become part of the Imagination, and it will shape us and teach us and guide us towards what we shall become. As to the time after our Passing, I have no facts and some Imagination! But when we have put down our earthly lives and “left the opera house”, our “work” will pour it’s power onto those who knew us and loved us ….. and so the Journey goes on.
“Advent”, as it takes its part in the Wisdom of the human community, reminds all of the human race that the Past and the Future fold in and make the Present, the Now. I’ve heard many great opera divas through my years. Sometimes Callas was really “off”; sometimes sublime! Leontyne too – though she was exquisitely more “pulled together” than Callas. But there were moments of Magic when everything came together, all the glory of the Past and all the possibility of the Future ….. and a Now moment brought Heaven to Earth. I will never forget the night that Leontyne Price floated for over 10 bars and magically “disappeared”. After a stunned ten seconds of utter silence that seemed forever, the Met audience erupted in a roar that raised the hair on the back of my neck. The Now exploded. All that had ever been and would be came together at that moment.
This is what our lives are meant to be: the utter Present, graced by all that has gone before and propelled by all we yearn for in the Yet To Come.
Let’s give it all we’ve got!