Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, March 31, 2011

There is no such thing as defeat in non-violence.

Cesar Chavez, union worker, disciple of Jesus;
he was born on this date, 1927, in Yuma, Arizona

I am embarrassed to say that I have a long way to go. As yet, I have never been tempted to public violence. But in my heart and my dreams, I often rage with violence, with the desire to take vengeance against those who so viciously abuse others, and especially those who wreak such violence upon Gayfolk. If there were a film made of my inner violence, you would rightly be appalled. I am, when it all emerges into my conscious reflection. But then again, I wrestle with it, and I think about my “spiritual Journey”, and I’m happy that it all doesn’t have the power to overwhelm me and to control my behaviour. Of course, I have to remember what an effect it can have on my desire to live the Compassion of God.

The power of non-violent witness against injustice and abuse to bring Life out of negativity is profound. It is, of course, at the heart of Jesus’ execution, death, burial, and of His ongoing living Presence with His disciples. Have I experienced it? Yes. I remember the non-violent protests in Providence RI and other places against the drug companies who were charging so much for new AIDS drugs, particularly AZT. And I vividly remember marching in Washington against the war in Vietnam, carrying the coffins of those eventually over 50,000 Americans who died in that war ….. but which latterly became such a monumental lesson to us (those who could “hear”) about the futility of attempting to deprive other human beings of freedom.

Cesar Chavez is an American who, through non-violence protest, taught us - in the words of the baptismal vows of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer - to “respect the dignity of every human being”. We have not learned the lesson well, alas. But Brother Cesar will always be a figure in our Life whose selflessness and compassion for underpaid and ill-treated workers reminded us of what it really means to be a true and patriotic American.

Cesar Chavez was in a sense powerless, but he could not be and was not defeated. America is the better for it. I am thankful for all those Christians and other religious folk who supported him and his union’s just cause.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, March 30, 2011

There's no reason to bring religion into it.
I think we ought to have as great a regard
for religion as we can, so as to keep it out
of as many things as possible.

Sean O’Casey, playwright; he was
born on this date, 1880, in Dublin

I am a “rabid” supporter of the separation of church and state in America. In anywhere, probably. Let me be plain: I see no place in the World today where Religion contributes anything positive to political life ….. with the possible exceptions of Burma, and the Amish folk in Pennsylvania whose witness to Forgiveness at the mass murder of their children in a school was breathtaking. (This is not to say that some religious people don’t enhance cultural life positively; some do.)

O’Casey was brought up, of course, in Catholic Ireland. Need anything else be said in relation to his comment? His feelings are perfectly understandable. And to me, the same is true about “Christianity” in America, as it is (alas) represented by the so-called Religious Right. And of course this would be true in spades for the fanatic fringes of Religion which seem to be flourishing everywhere. Why they are, I’m not sure, and I would appreciate any enlightenment on this.

The “Religion” I’m talking about are those that have been co-opted in support of principles which are entirely contrary to their Founders or Founding. And at the moment that is about them all. Most of them have morphed into willing, obsequious toadies, supporting social and political and theological demagogs bent on their own aggrandizement. What a mess it has made the World.

We need to keep Religion politically “out of as many things as possible” ….. until Religions regain their integrity and authenticity. I definitely think that America would benefit from sound moral and ethical teaching of the young, in school. But that won’t happen ~ and must not happen ~ until Religion has something Godlike (of the God of Infinite Compassion) to say. I see no sign of it yet.

“Keep it out.”

But: Pray and Work. We each could be a part of it happening!

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The world is not yet redeemed.

Isaac Mayer Wise, Bohemian-
born American rabbi; he founded
Reformed congregations. He was
born on this date, 1819.

Nor, I think, will it ever be. Redemption is not an “end”; it is an ongoing process.

What is Redemption? Well, no point in going on about Christian ideas involving sin and “salvation” by the blood-sacrifice of Jesus (an odious doctrine, by the way). Mayer was a Jew. I am drawn to the idea of “redemption” in the Law, or in Commerce. Redemption is the way by which a property that has been mortgaged is liberated and taken back, upon performance of the terms or conditions on which it was conveyed. It speaks to having become alienated from one’s Home, and finally finding a way to return Home.

My thought today is this: We Human Beings are a part of this amazing thing called Life. And in many ways we know ~ unless we have had the misfortune to live completely in times or places of great darkness ~ how exquisitely beautiful and deeply satisfying it can be. Countless wise people have tried to show us the Path to living Life and, if we have mortgaged it away, how to “liberate” it and come back Home.

The forces mitigating against our Homecoming are powerful and often diabolically subtle. I think you know the List; it includes the mortgaged Self and its way of Selfishness. Compassion is the chief “cure”.

Redemption, Homecoming, is a daily process. And it requires mindfulness.

As a friend’s answering machine says, “Hi. You know what to do”.

A little message from Life.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, March 28, 2011

A spiritual person tries less to be
godly than to be deeply human.

Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr.

I’ve come to see that there isn’t any difference. I think it’s clear that the Christian Gospel teaches that Jesus is the Elder Brother of all human beings, that we are all His “heirs”. To be human, mythologically speaking, is to be a Daughter or Son of God. [ I don’t need to say, to those of you who feel you know me some, that defining “God” trumps all other Questions!]

Of course this begs the Question: what does it mean to be “deeply human”? That Question, and it’s cousin “What does it mean to Love” – they define the essential work of each of us.

I think – and I say this from the experience of my Life – that most of us are lured away from this most important work. We are told in so many ways that we should be this or that. Parents and teachers and mentors try to shape us into whatever they think we should be. The rare gift and blessing in our Life is to find someone who tells us to be the unique human being we are meant to be, and supports on that Discovery. In God’s mind, there is no other appropriate Destiny. We must learn to Love in all It’s infinite aspects, and only as we were uniquely “made” to do it.

Today I am going to work at pushing aside all false pictures of me. In this season of Lent, this time of Reality, I’m going to look at who I am, “good” and “bad” and in between. To embrace, assess, let go of the Not-Me, and appreciate the Me. Then try to open to the process of being re-shaped by Love ….. by that immense and unconditional Love that is “God”.

It won’t matter how far I get today. Any minute step is cause for rejoicing in Heaven!


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, March 26, 2011

My food is to do the will of him who
sent me and to complete his work.

Jesus of Nazareth; in the reading from the Gospel
called “John”, chapter 4 [Lent III A RCL]

The full Reading can be found here:

This is Jesus’ Passion. The Passion of Jesus is not relegated to suffering. His Passion is about the core motivation of His Life. “To live the will of Him Who sent Me”.

In the Reading for this Sunday, Jesus tells His disciples that he does not need the food they offer; He tells them that He has food. “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”

Jesus is speaking to us ….. to those of us who are seeking to be fully Human, to those of us who by happenstance of birth or of choice have made His Way our central path to the fullness, the completeness, of bring Human.

In His speaking to the woman of Samaria, Jesus is turning “conventional wisdom” upside down. He is witnessing to the God Who is not just the tribal god of the Israelites, but to all the human race. His disciples are shocked. Are we? I’m not. I’ve long ago heard Jesus’ radical Message ….. and I feel slight stirring of hope that in the midst of the increasing division in our World, this Message is being heard. Self-inflicted suffering is increasing, but I “see” a different path opening.

There is no god(dess) who punishes. Our future is our own responsibility. Including the character and nature of the essence of Being we create and call “God”.

“If you knew the gift of God.” Indeed; if we only “knew”!

Jesus is you and I. God is incarnate in you and in me. This is the core Mystery of the Gospel. If we would be fully Human, Jesus’ Passion must be our Passion.

Love, as I have loved.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, March 25, 2011

History is a cyclic poem written by
time upon the memories of man.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, poet; on this date, 1811
(200 years ago today) he was expelled from
Oxford University for his publication of the
pamphlet “The Necessity of Atheism”.

What we call “History” is a fiction. Which, in my view, makes History much more profound in terms of understanding Humanity. Essentially, everything that is written purporting to be a factual accounting of events is heavily shaped by human emotions, perceptions, feelings, evaluations, prejudices, survival instincts, cultural formation, etc.

History is essentially, as Shelley says, a poem. An audacious, interpretive, artistic act, without which Humanity cannot survive.

Myth, understood as “truth story” ~ an attempt to “explain” Life ~ is a poem writ large. And Myth includes all religious narrative. No Myth can remain relevant without relentless contemporary examination, or its power dies, or worse becomes self-destructive. I suspect this is why Shelley wrote his pamphlet. Without challenge, “God” becomes irrelevant. In my opinion, so do we.

I think we are at the low end of a cycle in our World today. Imagination has faltered. Vision, as it did in Israelite life from the great prophets until John the Baptist, withered. It has happened in all human societies. I suspect it always will, in the great sweep of the poetic cycle.

The great Truth Stories and their Life Energy, however, live on in human hearts and minds. And now is the time ~ as violence and division and exclusion rage ~ to place the lamp upon the lampstand so that others may see the shining beacon and take hope.

Let us not doubt ourselves. Time has written the great poem upon our memories. Let us live it.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, March 24, 2011

The true secret of happiness lies in taking a
genuine interest in all the details of daily life.

William Morris, designer, craftsman & poet; he was
born on this date, 1834, in Walthamstow, London

I tried this out today. Though I have found as I get older that “the details of daily life” have become more engaging.

Anyway. Here’s a short list:

- The verbena soap, though down to the “nubbin”, still has a lovely scent.
- My shave-in-the-shower mirror really works, doesn’t fog ~ and it is a source of immense satisfaction.
- My body actually stays warm in the time it takes to pee and get back under the covers.
- The iPad backlight can be adjusted. Brilliant!
- The Alstrumeria and yellow roses that Dennis put on the dining table are ….. perfect!
- Seven clocks tick & chime throughout the night in this house. Friendly, at 3am of a wakeful night.
- The oil painting of Portofino radiates sunlight on a rainy morning. I’m there again!
- Dennis’s chili simmering fills the house, spicy. Lunch at 2pm is calm, the Malbec fruity. Ah.
- The Lesser Goldfinches, House Finches, English Sparrows , and White-crowned Sparrows are very cheery.
- My right arm aches from hauling my suitcase up and down subway stairs. Ben Gay is soothing.
- My World War II Spode bathroom cup, ~“a part of the war effort” it says ~ radiates solidarity.
- Assam tea in the morning. Wonderful espresso in a Limoges deco demitasse after lunch. Charming.
- My oldest friend of 60 years, Martin, is 65 today. Friendship is a great blessing!

Even the short list was more than enough to prove William Morris right. Pleasure and Happiness abound “in the details of daily life”. Like the Biblical story of Namaan cured of leprosy, there is much to be said for the healing power of simple things.


Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I love playing bitches. There's a lot of
bitch in every woman - a lot in every man.

Lucille Fay LeSueur, alias Joan Crawford; she
was born on this date, 1908, in San Antonio TX

Mention Joan Crawford, and more than likely the response will be “Mommie Dearest” – the book (later a movie) by her adopted daughter Christina about the harsh childhood she had at her mother’s hands. You know, one of the things that I’ve learned over the years writing these Reflections is to accept the reality that we are all a mixture of “good” and “bad”. For years I wouldn’t quote Martin Luther because he was such a horrible hater of Jews. Etc. But I’ve learned that we are all “just human”, and that doesn’t mean that all of us don’t have something to add to the human experience. I’ve even [shudder] quoted Hitler.

Anyway, I thought this was a good quote for Lent, when we’re supposed to be focusing on “repentance”. Repentance being getting a grip on Reality. I may have mentioned that I’m reading David Brooks’ book “The Social Animal”. At one point he comments that all human beings lie, to others and to themselves. And of course, most wise teachers tell us that “knowing ourselves” is critical to any kind of spiritual growth.

So, today is Facing our Bitch Day. Have a good look in the inner mirror. No denial or avoidance allowed. It will be refreshing and freeing and all those good things!

Good luck!


p.s. I had a look myself, but …… I couldn’t find any Bitchiness. :-)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, March 21, 2011

Of one thing I am certain, the
body is not the measure of healing.
Peace is the measure.

Phyllis McGinley, author, poet; she
was born on this date, 1905, in
Ontario, Oregon

Nicely said! It’s something that those of us who pray for healing for folks need to be clear about.

Of course we would all like to be free of pain, so it’s not surprising that we pray for the pain to “be taken away”. And I suppose that no one really wants to die, so we pray to live. But of course we will suffer a lot of pain on all levels in our lives, and experience various healings, and eventually we will all die to this earthly Life.

Phyllis is right. “Peace is the measure.” Sure, I think that we should do our best not to be pain that can be alleviated. But Peace is the core character of Healing. We can bear a lot that we have to bear if we are at peace.

So it is not surprising that Jesus is recorded to have said often in some form, “Peace I give you, My own Peace I leave with you”.

That is, as the Book of Common Prayer says, “The Peace of God, which passes all understanding”.

May we all have it; may we all minister it to each other.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Saturday, the Weekend, March 19, 2011

"Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the
kingdom of God without being born from above."

The Gospel called “John”, chapter 3 (Lent II RCL)

[ The complete reading can be viewed at: ]

Ah, Nicodemus! This is a good story ….. and I would say that it is originally derived from the early gnosis tradition. “Gnosis” [knowledge] (yes, I know this is simplistic) has, at it’s heart, the concept of being One with all that Is. The understanding is: “God” wants us to “get” this and live in this context. (And by the way, this concept is MUCH older than Christianity.

The story takes a “swipe” at shallow thinkers. Don’t we get what Jesus is saying? Nicodemus is portrayed as typically “dense”; he’s the fall-guy: Whatever do you mean?? I rather doubt that someone like Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews, was as dense as he is portrayed. But it advances the story and the point that is being made. Being “born again” has nothing to do with a physical rebirth. It is about coming to understand how we become fully mature as a human being. Jesus’ words relate directly back to the Genesis story about how Adam and Eve became living human beings: God’s breath enlivened them. So: that is what must happen to us. We get born into the World as living biological human beings. But something else has to happen for us to become “made in the image of God”. In mythological terms, we have to “die” to a false understanding of Being, and embrace a different way of understanding how to be Fully Human. The mythological concept is to “become one with God”. And this, by the way, is the task of every human being. Every culture and religion has a way of leading us on this Journey. Few pay attention. Alas.

“Born from above” means simply: we have to learn how to move from an isolated existence to being a part of Humanity. We learn to respect persons, to be intrigued and appreciative of persons, to be delighted by persons, to see persons as reflections of ourselves. Now I find this thoroughly charming! More of a person!

You, I, We, must be “born again”. Grow. Deepen. Complexify. Simplify. Not get stuck in a rut. Constantly evolve. To do this, of course, we must Surrender. Or we remain blocked. Stunted.

Open up! You’ll be a lot happier.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, March 18, 2011

Life is a song - sing it. Life is a game - play it.
Life is a challenge - meet it. Life is a dream - realize it.
Life is a sacrifice - offer it. Life is love - enjoy it.

Sai Baba

How we live our lives is very much dependent on the “culture” we are brought up with or which we later establish for ourselves. By “culture” I mean the total context, and the patterns we establish to sustain that context.

I have been pondering my own Life. As my friend Martin and I often say, “Look where two kids from Verdun got!” It’s too complex to set out now, but what really amazes me in what is found in the human makeup, the things that mysteriously emerge and compel one forward. How I got from my little life on 5th Avenue in Verdun to college and theological degrees, years in a monastic order, travelling far and wide in the World, years of living in the United States, of parish ministry and now 38 years of ordained priesthood, “retirement”, Life with a partner, mystifies and bemuses and delights me!

Much of my Life’s “culture” I think I was born with, and much I’ve chosen and reshaped. On the whole, it’s “worked”.

As you know, I’m a Trekkie. One strong image in my mind is Captain Jean Luc Picard standing on the bridge, his arm thrust forward and his finger pointing, and him saying, “Engage”. It’s a metaphor for me about Life, which Sai Baba too reflects in the quote today.

Life is beckoning.



Thursday, March 17, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, March 17, 2011

The ancient Greeks had a different motivational structure.
Thumos was the desire for recognition, the desire to have
people recognize your existence, not only now but for all
Thumos included the desire for eternal fame – to
attract admiration and to be worthy of admiration in a way
that was deeper than mere celebrity.

David Brooks, in his book “The Social Animal”

I am thoroughly positively engaged by David Brooks’ book. Though I have to confess to a little hesitancy and wariness, since I regard Mr. Brooks as a sane but political “adversary”. But he is raising interesting thinking.

The word that caught my eye was “recognition”. It connected with what I quoted yesterday from Gorky. He said that we must recognize that every human being has something to contribute to Humanity. Brooks confirms that from the other perspective: that every human being desires to make that contribution. And that we should be recognized for having made, or tried to make, it.

Mr. Brooks also makes the point (as I see it) that we human beings have to learn what he calls the “ideal essences” – “the dream of perfect success, when all that is best within oneself blends with all that is eternal in the universe in perfect synchronicity”. Hmmm. Very ….. Platonic?

Of course, we all might disagree, and do!, as to what those “ideal essences” are. Hitler thought it was “racial purity”, and I disagree. And I have often said I don’t “believe” in Absolutes of This or That. But again, we are bombarded, if we are lucky in Life, with a myriad of “ideals” from all sources, and we must choose or experience those which feel true to us.

My training in Life has taught me that Compassion and “loving one’s neighbour” are Ideal Essences. And I want those who will remember me to remember me for my striving for them.

How about you?


p.s. It being St. Patrick’s Day, I do hope that those organizing the St. Patrick’s Day parade in NYC will see that excluding Gay and Lesbian Irish folk from participating does not contribute to “what is best within oneself” or to the human community.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Everybody, my friend, everybody lives for something
better to come. That's why we want to be considerate
of every man - Who knows what's in him, why he was
born and what he can do?

Maxim Gorky, author; he was born on this date, 1868

Life is about choices. Systems, philosophies, religions, cultures, they all claim “truth” and “right” (well, a very few are more modest!) and offer “wisdom”. But in the end, each of us has to choose. And it’s important what we choose, not only for ourselves, but for the Human community.

I’m with Gorky on the choice he seems to have made in his assumptions about Persons. Lots of people (including that abysmal politician from NH who recently dismissed “handicapped” people as disposable) categorize certain people as more valuable than others. I think that Jesus made a point of hobnobbing with the poor and outcast. He wasn’t saying that the “rich” were less valuable, but that ALL are equally valuable. As Gorky says, every person was born to make a contribution to the race. I wish I could send this Reflection to all our rich politicians! (Not that they’d care, alas.)

The more people we exclude from making their contribution, the more impoverished Humanity becomes. I want to try not to contribute to that poverty.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, March 14, 2011

God took the man and put him in the
garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And
God commanded the man, "You may freely
eat of every tree of the garden; but of the
tree of the knowledge of good and evil you
shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it
you shall die."

Gen 2: 15ff [The Hebrew Scripture for Lent I]

[ Full text here: ]

All Creation Myths derive from their cultural setting, and reflect it. This one has never been a “favourite” - but I realize now that this is not because of the Myth itself. Like all Creation myths, it contains some creative thinking about the origin and meaning of Life. Rather, it is because of the way it has been interpreted by continuing generations - shamefully, in some aspects. I prefer to put all the Creation Myths together, and get a broader picture.

Here’re my musings on this Genesis passage.

Life is about Reality. So is “God”. So is the Gospel, and most spiritual paths. Lent, with its emphasis on confronting Sin and on repentance, is about Reality, about dispelling Unreality and self-delusion.

Adam and Eve are One: “bone of bone and flesh of flesh”. But the story is set in a patriarchal culture, and Eve as woman gets blamed, dragging Adam along with her. Shamefully, Christianity has perpetuated this subjugation and inferiorization and untrustworthiness of women. What can we expect from a tribal patriarchy? But the Reality is: Adam and Eve are One. The decision to “eat” is Humanity’s decision.

The Serpent says, You won’t die if you eat; you will be like God. The Myth makes it look as if Humanity left a state of Eternal Goodness and “fell”. This is Unreality. The Reality is: Humanity IS “like God”; we share in Being, which God represents. We have the knowledge of Good and Evil, we always have had, and we have always exercised it. The Fig Leaf (which has nothing to do with any condemnation of sexuality) represents, as a parishioner said this morning, our admission of the Reality that we are “made in the image” of the God of Love and Compassion, but we reject it. Herein lies the basis of the havoc of our lives.

The Serpent gets a bad rap ….. to this day feared and loathed. But the Serpent – which was indeed feared and loathed – is just a character of the Myth. It represents Humanity’s self-deception, its willingness to shun responsibility for our choices “against God”, i.e., against our truest Self.

When we “eat” of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, i.e., say Yes to Evil (which is what Jesus rejected in the story of His temptation by Satan in the Wilderness), we do indeed “die”. We die to a Life of Love, Compassion, Justice, Forgiveness.

Courageously embracing Reality. Accepting Responsibility for our choices. Being freed over and over to choose the Good. This is to walk the Sacred Way.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, March 11, 2011

Life of my life, you seem to me
Like some pallid olive tree
Or the faded rose I see:
Nor do you lack beauty,
But pleasing in every way to me,
In shyness or in flattery,
Whether you follow me or flee,
Consume, destroy me softly.

Torquato Tasso, poet; he was
born on this date, 1544, in Sorrento

“Consume, destroy me softly”. Now that’s a passionate, gentle sigh of the heart given voice and form by a true and wise poet!

I love the imagery of the pallid olive tree and the faded rose ~ both soft, refined, elegant, having the quality of beauty that comes only with age.

But Tasso is speaking to a power he has known from his youth, when it was then shy and following him, enticing him; and in later life, when it stroked his virtues and danced ahead, drawing him deeper into Life.

He is honouring Love. Love is the “Life of my life”. Love is the Goddess, the Divine, in all Her mystery.

We are all destined to disappear into Love, “to die”, to be “destroyed”. But Tasso is not afraid; he knows the paradox of surrendering to this Love, which kills without hurt … softly.

From the dying comes Life, whispering “Do not be afraid!”


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, March 10, 2011

I love living.
I have some problems with my life,
but living is the best thing they've
come up with so far.

Neil Simon, playwright; on this date, 1965, his
play “The Odd Couple” opened on Broadway.

I do too! I certainly have had problems. But I have always loved living. I’m also very very aware that I have lived a relatively privileged Life, compared to probably 95% of people on the planet. And that makes it a lot easier to love living. How I’d do if I lived in Darfur or Mumbai or Baffin Island or a favela in Brazil I don’t know. Nor do I know how I will feel about living if I can’t walk or I go blind or have to live with constant pain. To be perfectly honest, I’m basically a coward.

One thing that helps is that I get great enjoyment out of simple things: picking and eating sun-warmed raspberries; watching birds; sitting on the beach; looking at the stars on a dark night; walking through a meadow filled with California poppies; reading in the sun. Don’t get me wrong though; I would enjoy owning a small private elegantly-appointed jet, and having a sunny villa in Portofino, and being able to spend weeks on Lake Como!! With good friends, natch! But I don’t need this type stuff to be happy.

I also hold to the theory that you get what you invite. (Is that karma?) A loving openness to Life draws Life, and vice versa. There are always problems! That’s a given. But I’m sure you’ve noticed than one simple pleasure can trump a lot of pain!

So that’s me, Pollyanna Brian, signing off. Stop watching or listening to news. Eat warm fresh mango (leave it on the window sill in the sun). Walk a mile and a half every day as Dennis and I do (OK, OK, I apologize to all you in the snow and cold ….. but many of you tell me you love it!). Listen to the Symphony Hall station of XM. Read and nap each afternoon.

I love living. And (at the risk of sounding like Mr. Rodgers), start your local ILL Club and share the blessing. Never know: we might help heal the World.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Ash Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Human kind
 cannot bear
very much reality.

T.S. Eliot, from his poem
“Ash Wednesday”

O yes we can!

If we can’t, it is because we have been betrayed by our teachers and spiritual leaders. Though one must remember that they too were betrayed. Blame is not helpful; we are in this together.

Many things have colluded to undermine our sense of strength, personal integrity, courage, hope, our vision for our humanity and the possibilities of its destiny. Eliot was a wise seer; he may have been commenting on his experience of the human race – and especially our fear of Reality. Fear triggers the avoidance and the procrastination and the sense of self-doubt of which we all capable. But Eliot was a believer in Reality and its power to transform.

Lent, like similar practices in many religions and “paths”, is above all meant to be a time in which we fearlessly invite Reality into our lives. Why? Because from Time Immemorial, wise persons have tried to tell us that Reality is the surest and most trustworthy path to Freedom and Wholeness, and to Love and Compassion.

Lent points to one thing: the celebration, in the Christian Story, of the Raising to Life of Jesus. Jesus arrived at both His death and His Raising to Life by fully, willingly and unconditionally embracing Reality. That one person achieved this is awesome enough. But there is an even greater thing we will celebrate on that Easter Day: our own embrace of Reality, our own death, our own Raising to Life.

Ash Wednesday is Step One to Resurrection to New Life for each and every one of us. Let us not be disappointed come Easter Day. May we make our Lent a greedy embrace of Reality - about ourselves, about everything. In this Lent may all bonds to delusion and falseness fall from our minds and hearts. May we have the will and courage to surrender to this “death”. I suggest this as the focus for our Lenten “40 days”; and that each day we do something to aim us unerringly to the Paschal Mystery: our oneness with God, the Alpha and Omega of all Life.

If we have managed even one step in dispelling Unreality and Fear, it will be an Easter Morning beyond any other!


Monday, March 7, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A new untruth is better than an old truth.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Supreme Court
Justice, philosopher; he was born on this
date, 1841

One of the poignant scenes of the Gospel for me is the moment that Jesus stands before Pontius Pilate. Jesus speaks of Truth. Pilate responds “What is Truth?” And there is no answer from Jesus.

Why? I think because Jesus knows that there is no point in responding. Jesus, like so many of the great teachers of the Spirit, challenges “old truths”. People get stuck in “old truths”, and they are trapped. There is little or no possibility of getting free, of seeing things anew, or change. Trying to get them to see new truths is a waste of energy. Jesus saw that in Pilate.

As a priest, I would preside at the Sacraments, and preach, and teach ….. and entice. But one of my most important tasks was to keep an eye on people, looking for that moment when I could see in their eyes or in their life that they were open to a “new truth”. When those moments came, I tried to be ready to be there and to in a sense nudge them over the line. Each one of those people was to me like the 100th, the “lost sheep” – worth a real effort to “find”. And of course, all of us are capable of having such moments.

Many would argue that Truth is absolute. I believe in few if any Absolutes beyond perhaps Love. Truth is a function of each person’s Life Journey. The power and significance of Truth will – must – change with every step of the Journey. The moments when Truth and Awareness coincide can be infinite. And the power of those moments transforming.

Even if a “new untruth” disturbs, challenges, angers, it at least shakes things up. It chips away at the tombs in which “old truths” encase us. Dr. Holmes was right on the money. He understood what Jesus meant when He said, “I will send you the Spirit, who will teach you all Truth; and the truth will set you free.”

It will kill us to stay trapped in useless, irrelevant “old truths”. New untruths are God’s humourous but firm push towards wholeness of Life.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, March 7, 2011

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that
within me there lay an invincible summer.

Albert Camus

Believe it or not, there are “depths of winter” even on the sunny Californian coast. I who have lived in the Eastern USA and in Canada know well the sense of a seemingly endless winter. I remember painfully how I, as a child bundled up in a snowsuit and boots and mitts and fur-lined hood, was sent out to “play” in the freezing snow and cold. How I despaired, experiencing even at age four a desolation of heart.

Now what a powerful symbol this has become in my mind for our World in these times! Does the human race go through this in cycles? I think so. I would say that certainly all individuals do. To be human means intrinsically to experience isolation, lostness, fragmentation, abandonment, fear. Americans, who so long have considered themselves immune, have discovered it in spades since 9/11 and the economic collapse - and have discovered the shallowness and ineffectuality of its religious and political underpinnings. It is the experience of having developed a unique Ego, then of not discovering that a unique Ego is not an End in itself, but the necessary preparation for Wholeness ~ and for the capacity to love.

I experience the World today as a collection of lost Egos. I smell its stink of fear ….. of a cold, bitter lostness in a “depth of winter”. It rises to our nostrils from Madison WI and the US Congress to Darfur to Libya to Saudi Arabia – from all places where humanity has become a casualty of lost Egos.

But Camus speaks the truth. There is “an invincible summer” at the very core of each human being. I know this is true, because I “know” it. I do not exactly know how I “know” it, or how I got there. Except perhaps in one way: I intuit that there is no distinction between myself and Being Itself. And that this is true for us all, for all things. If I can be said to have any “faith” at all, it is this.

I also sense this: I must surrender to this truth unconditionally. It is the only way to make my contribution to Wholeness, to Love, whatever that contribution may be. I think the same is true for you.

I am also reminded, by the many who have surrendered, that the cost can be heavy.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, March 3, 2011

Our highest duty as human beings
is to search out means whereby all
beings may be freed from all kinds
of unsatisfactory experience and

His Holiness The Dalai Llama

Our task must be to free ourselves
from this prison (our personal
desires and .. affection for a few
persons nearest to us) by widening
our circle of compassion to embrace
all living creatures and the whole
of nature in its beauty.

Albert Einstein

[ We’re still on the trail! It calls for brevity! ]

Remember Jesus’ Great Prayer in John’s Gospel? “May they be One, Father, as You and I are One”? In my opinion, Jesus is definitely in with Einstein and the Dalai Llama. Think about these three comments today. And think about popular religion in America today. Think about the divisiveness, the anger, the fulminations, the abusing of dead soldiers and their families by vicious protestors from Baptist cults, etc etc ad nauseum.

Love? Compassion? A living out of the Golden Rule?


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Death the last voyage, the
longest, and the best.

Tom Wolfe, author, journalist;
he was born on this date, 1931.

I love it! Since I came to the clear realization (something that has been proverbially staring me in the face since I started the Journey of the ancient spiritual paths, including the Gospel) that Death and Life are the same thing – complementary sides of a coin – I have had a whole new World open to me!

The paths of deepest wisdom tell us that the sooner we embrace Death, the entrance to fullness of Life opens. It proposes to us as well that our physical death in this earthly life is but a transitional moment on this Journey. This is, of course, the deepest meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection: once we embrace Death, Life manifests.

What is the “Death” we embrace? Simply put, we die to a false concept: that we are Separate. We instead choose to embrace the possibility that we are Eternal, the same as all Being, including the Mystery we call God. From that moment, Death and Life are One.

The most uncorrupted Christian Wisdom tries to instill this reality in the rite of Baptism. But alas the Church has made this rite a way of “joining the club”. That is not what Baptism is. It is the acceptance of Death and Life ….. and the words of the Rite make this clear – “we are buried with Christ, in order that we may rise with Him”. Unfortunately, we have taken to baptizing infants, and hence there is little possibility of our intent becoming reality ….. especially since Baptism had become a cultural magical way of saving babies from Hell at worst, or a charming way of giving them a name and welcoming them into the human family. I think we should return to the practice of adult baptism, which is in fact the “norm” of Episcopal theology, and be more faithful in teaching the Path.

Let’s teach young people the way to entering the Human Journey of Love and Oneness as soon as they are capable ….. in other words teach them to “Die”. And thereby set them on the path to Life in all its Joy, Freedom, and Power.

From that moment on, they will be on “the last voyage, the longest and the best”. Because it never ends.