Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, June 30, 2011

First thing in the morning, before you meet or greet anyone,
remember to greet all of nature, all visible and invisible creatures.
Say to them: "I am grateful for your work, I love you and want to
be in harmony with you!" At this very moment, in response to your
greeting, all of nature will open to you and send you energy for the
entire day.

Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov

Ok, so it sounds a little “new age”-y. But who cares ….. at least I don’t. One of the things that has always annoyed me about Christianity and most Western religions is that they have eliminated any sense of our integral connection with Nature. (And with the Feminine in the concept of the Deity.) Worse, Christianity has interpreted the Genesis Creation Myth #1 (Gen 1) to declare that we humans are “in charge” and we can manipulate and use Nature as we wish. If I would denounce anything as “wicked”, that would be one.

I believe we all have to choose the principles and concepts and ideas by which we live and which express our understanding of “Reality”. I choose to believe that human beings are an integral part of Nature and, while we may have the ability to place ourselves at the top of the “food chain”, that does not give us the right to misuse or abuse Nature. We are One with Nature, and it is our vocation to contribute to Nature’s glory and splendour. If we abuse Nature, we are destroying ourselves.

So, I have taken Aivanhov to heart. I have memorized the greeting, and I say it slowing and quietly - and with a daily growing sense of Peace and Delight - each morning as I awake.

And you know what? I feel that my humanity and my Personhood has expanded. And ….. I feel a sense that I am indeed, as the Proper Preface for Saints says, “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” ….. all rooting for me!


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I have no right, by anything I do or say,
to demean a human being in his own eyes.
What matters is not what I think of him;
it is what he thinks of himself. To under-
mine a man's self-respect is a sin.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author (“The Little Prince”);
he was born on this date, 1900 (died 1944)

I have always been very happy that the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer of 1979 included this vow in the Baptismal Office: “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”. The rite makes it absolutely clear that acknowledging, supporting, and defending the dignity of every human being is at the core of the Christian path.

So, here’s yet another challenge of living the Gospel: keeping this principle before our hearts, minds, tongue, and actions as we move through each day. This is at the heart of Prayer.

No, it isn’t easy! Every moment has so many distractions, so many “temptations”. It is very easy to be distracted, sidetracked. I have a little List I keep in my pocket. I change it and revise it now and then as I continue to grow and learn in Charity and Compassion. One day I’ll share the List!

Remember though: if you make such a List, you must also learn to forgive yourself, and to rejoice in being a human being who tries their best to live this Truth. Failure is but an invitation to begin afresh.

As with so many things, it is the Journey and not the End that is most important.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Man is born free, and everywhere
he is in shackles.

Jean Jacques Rousseau, philosopher;
he was born on this date, 1712.

OK. There are a lot of other quotes I could have chosen for Rousseau. Certainly this is one of the most quoted and hackneyed. But ….. highly relevant these days, yes? I don’t know about you, but I feel greatly disappointed that the human race seems to have made so little advancement in a lot of things, including freedom. Oh, Freedom has come now and then, occasionally profoundly ….. but it cycles back and forth.

Is that the way Life is, and Human Nature? And the way it will always be?

I think perhaps Freedom cannot stand alone. It must have “companions”. Jesus is reported to have said something very compelling: “I have the power to lay down my life, and I have the power to take it up again”. Laying down one’s life - which is often in the mystical context called “dying” - is often in many religions seen as true Freedom. Similarly, I recently read something like, “The greatest affluence is to need nothing”. This theme gets replayed. In “Shogun”, it is pointed out that once one has made the inner choice to commit suicide, which I understand symbolically, one is then free. In George Martin’s contemporary fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire”, the priest of the Drowned God drowns initiates until they pass out/die, and then revives them – and they can never die again. Christian Baptism symbolically “drowns” the person, signifying they have “died” to a lesser Life and risen to a Larger and to Eternal Life (if they follow the Path).

I think one essential Companion of Freedom is radical Compassion. Unless a person has subjected the Ego and can suffer with another or see themselves in the Other, they are not free and never will be. Is this not essentially the Message behind the Christian doctrine of Incarnation, that God becomes Man?

No wonder our World today is so bereft of Freedom?

What think you?


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, June 27, 2011

The rule is, jam tomorrow
and jam yesterday –
but never jam today.

The White Queen to Alice in “Through
the Looking Glass and What Alice
Found There”. Author Lewis Carroll
(Charles Dodgson) was born on this date,
1832, in Cheshire, England

“Nunc” and “iam” both mean “now” in Latin. So, the White Queen’s words to Alice (being the rules under which Alice would come to work for the White Queen) are a pun by Carroll on a mnemonic, which Carroll either invented or was existent in contemporary culture for remembering which is used when. [ In Latin, “nunc” is used only in the present tense, and “iam” - sometimes in English spelled “jam” - only in the past and future tenses.]

Now: don’t you just love knowing things like that!

Alice’s response to the White Queen is, “It must come sometimes to ‘Jam today’. To which the Queen responds, "No, it can't; It's jam every OTHER day: to-day isn't any OTHER day, you know." To which Alice responds, "I don't understand you; It's dreadfully confusing.”

It is. Confusing. Life, I mean. And so wonderfully challenging, and fascinating. Do you know the show that Morgan Freeman hosts on the TV channel Science, called “Through the Wormhole”? I highly recommend it. The one on the nature of the “Soul” is a delight.

In my present 65-year-understanding of the Universe and of the figure of God, there is no Yesterday or Tomorrow separate from Today. To put it another way, there is nothing - either in the state of mind we call Yesterday or Tomorrow - that we can’t have Today. This includes the gifts of Hindsight and of “Heaven”.

My advice: in the Journey of Life, and especially in the “spiritual” Journey of Life, never go to work for the White Queen!

The quoted phrase is often used these days to describe a variety of unfulfilled political promises ….. and I would extend that to unfulfilled religious/theological promises.

The “God” I know is not the White Queen. With the God I know - provided one learns and applies the Great Truths - it always Jam Today.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, June 24, 2011

If a [person] wishes to be sure of the road he treads on,
he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.

San Juan de la Cruz

“Darkness and Light to You are both alike.” One of the Hebrew psalms I think. Juan de la Cruz had what is called a “dark night of the soul”, where he knew intellectually that God loved him, but did not feel or experience it. He “knew” that the Christ was the Light of the World, the still-point of his Being, but his senses were “dead”. I wonder if, for San Juan, the Dark was to know without knowing, or, to put it another way: the surest path is Trust, when our senses and feelings desert us.

I imagine that it is hard to walk the path of Trust when deserted by sensory evidence or solace. But I must say that I have never had the “feeling” that I was loved by “God”. On the other hand, I haven’t needed it, or expected it. What I have needed to know is that I am an integral and essential part of Existence, of Being. This has been proposed to me in my Life, I have pondered it, and I made my decision to accept and to trust in it. Every one of us is taught many things, and every one of us must take responsibility for the path we choose. From that center flows my Peace and my sense of self-worth and my confidence.

The Journey has been circuitous! I believe that it is of the essence to claim a very high doctrine of the value of oneself and of others and of all that Is. To let no one demean or devalue us.

The Dark and the Light are, I know, One.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, June 23, 2011

The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life,
the more we analyze them out into strange finalities and complex
purposes of our own, the more we involve ourselves in sadness.
But it does not matter much because no despair of ours can alter
the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is
always there.

Thomas Merton

Surprise! There IS something bigger than little ole you or me. What a relief! (Are young people capable of seeing this, or only “maturing” people???) It’s far too stressful to think that we are “in charge”, that we can control things. Needing to be in charge and control things is a phenomenon I’ll call “Problem Solving Male-ism” - based on what many of my women friends have told me, and what I’ve read from counselors. This is the tendency to listen just long enough to think that we have understood the issue, and immediately leap in to solve the problem. That “long enough” is usually as short as possible. And I agree with Merton: it very often involves us in sadness.

OK. Yes, we human beings are problem solvers. That’s part of being human ….. but only part. The other part is what Merton speaks to. We must learn to wait upon the Cosmic Dance, upon Unfolding Reality. This honouring of the unfolding of the Cosmic Dance, of Reality, I will call the “Don’t Answer Your Email Too Fast” Principle. (I confess I am often guilty of violating this Principle.) I have found that if you let emails sit for awhile, one of two things will happen: either you will eventually discover that it does not need to be answered, or you will discover that what you thought was being communicated in the email was not correct; more will come.

I think it is important to learn to wait attentively and expectantly in Life. The Cosmic Dance will not stop. Reality will not evaporate. There is no useful purpose in rushing into “misunderstanding the phenomena of life” or analyzing them “out into strange finalities or complex purposes of our own”.

So, if you get a response from me that just says “Pondering”, you will know I am listening and open to further Enlightenment!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I've always taken 'The Wizard of Oz'
very seriously, you know. I believe in
the idea of the rainbow. And I've spent
my entire life trying to get over it.

Judy Garland, actress, singer; she died on
this date, 1969, age 47

We human beings fascinate me! What amazing creatures we are ….. the things we think, imagine, feel, accomplish, express, create.

Judy is often described as an “icon” for Gay men. Know why? Her vulnerability. Judy’s image is of a woman who wanted love and to love, and who was just not able to withstand the mistreatment her vulnerability opened her to. Gay men identify, at least with wanting to love and be loved and being rejected by society. Judy is the Feminine that is denied not only to Gay men but to all men.

Oz. Know what Oz is - that place “over the rainbow”? Oz is where you can take your hurts and loneliness, your sadness, your longings and desires, your broken heart, your need for courage, your confused brain, and find a Wise Person - perhaps hiding behind a grand exterior (think “God”) but really “one of us” (think Jesus, Who is our own truest Self) - who will show us the simple path “home”, and send us back “over the rainbow”. It is in our own Being we will find the way to our own freedom. Everything we need is within. Judy, alas, didn’t get there. But I have, and if I have, you can. Take your own Cowardly Lion and Tin Man and Scarecrow by the arm and march down that Yellow Brick Road to the Wizard Who is your exquisitely wondrous Self. There the gifts of a Heart to Love, the Courage to be yourself, and the wit to Know Yourself will be given.

“I’ve spent my life trying to get over it”, Judy said. Did she mean find that Holy Oz Within, or her self-abusive denial that she deserved such a place? Whatever, we must find our way to Oz. We must believe that we are destined to find our Heart, our Courage, our Brain ….. and that it will be found by Journeying Within.

May you find every companion you need for the Journey “over the rainbow”, and a pair of Ruby Slippers to lead you home.


p.s. My wonderful partner in Life Dennis is celebrating his 60th birthday today. I am blessed to walk the Yellow Brick Road with him. He has helped me to learn much.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Original sin is that thing about man which
makes him capable of conceiving of his own
perfection and incapable of achieving it.

Reinhold Niebuhr, Protestant theologian;
he was born on this date, 1892.

Ah. The doctrine of “Original Sin”. It’s very ………. problematic! Alas, one could write a book on the subject ….. and I have not the time nor the space nor the intellect. (I tend, too, to be an erratic thinker.)

“Original Sin” makes an initial assumption – if I am correct about the nature of the thinking of the times and philosophical culture of Augustine – with which I profoundly disagree. And that is the assumption that there was a time when human beings were not sinners, or, to put it another way, were made by “God” not to sin (i.e., act unlovingly or against the “nature of God), but “rebelled” or “fell”, sinned, and from that moment had to be “rescued” from eternal death by God specifically by the death and resurrection of God’s Son. (Or something to this affect.) (or is it “effect”?). And following, that human beings are not capable of love without God’s grace/assistance, from “outside us”.

This is presumably what the people who shaped the Genesis Creation Stories thought. Why? Because they were deeply frustrated since, as Niebuhr points out, we (at least some) human beings are indeed capable of conceiving how superb we can be, and completely bewildered about how incapable we are of sustaining such an existence as a human community and as individuals. Our own present times shout out this reality.

The reality is, as I understand it, that it is and always has been in the very nature of human beings to love and hate. The “story of the Fall” and the story of “redemption in Christ” is essentially a profound wail from the depths of the human mind and heart at the reality of Evil, and an expression of hope that there is something or Someone “out there” who will help us. Hence, the invention of “God”. In many ways, it has been a very helpful invention.

I’ll come back to this in the future, perhaps a lot, but today I would say this: “God” is the power within to Love, that is at our core; the Christ that is of the essence of being human. This is the “Original Blessing”. “Satan” also dwells within, a power to do evil that astounds us. There is, to my mind, no useful or good purpose in denying who we really are. But we do not need the “grace” of a God Without to help us. We need to seek and find and know the God Within.

When we worship THAT God, and when our will and God’s will are reaching towards each other, we catch a glimpse of Eden ….. an Eden that lies in each and every one of us, waiting to blossom.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, June 20, 2011

Sometimes I feel as if four thousand years
of silencing women, of the fear of women
who were burned in oil or eviscerated in
front of their daughters, is imprinted deep
within me and has altered my DNA.

Thankfully, it became clear to me that when
I compete, I lose my connection to the passion
I have for my work.

Olympia Dukakis, actress and artist; she was
born on this date, 1931, and is 80 today.

One of my heroes! As a woman, a person, an actress. As an actress, especially in the role of Anna Madrigal, the transsexual (male to female) landlady of Barbary Lane in Armisted Maupin’s “Tales of the City”. Mrs. Madrigal is a superb metaphor of every person being who they truly are. I know at the very core of my Life that this is what God intended, intends, and desires for every single human person. I feel this as deeply as Olympia does about the oppression of women: my DNA has been altered by my absolute conviction that every single person must be equally valued and respected, and we each must be free to be our unique and authentic selves. None of the great divisive issues of the human race will be “solved” until all are accepted and respected for their true selves.

The passion I have for my work, as a man, a Gay man, a priest, has been rooted in being fully the person I was born to be, in encouraging those entrusted to my pastoral care to find the freedom so to be, and in “preaching” in word and deed a God who offers this gift. It will be my passion till the end.

Competition is death-dealing ….. unless, as St. Paul intimates, it is to outdo each other in Love and Justice and Humility.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, June 18, 2011
Trinity Sunday in the Christian Kalendar

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them
to obey everything that I have commanded you.

Matthew 28

Most scholars of the Bible agree that Jesus did not say these words. They are probably a baptismal formula used by the early Church, included in the Gospel by those who eventually shaped the final redaction of the Gospel story, reflecting their experience between the time of Jesus and the development of the Nicene Creed in 325 CE.

Let us put aside the political and “theological” dimensions of this “doctrine”. And simply ask the question: What is at the heart of the doctrine of the Trinity in terms of the inner transformation of the human (both individual and community) “soul”.

It is about LIFE: the Father. It is about ONENESS WITH LIFE: the Son, merging the human and the divine. It is about LOVE IN ACTION, the basic “language” of the Gospel life: the Spirit.

Baptism is being grafted into a human community which teaches about and seeks to live the life of that “Trinity”.

Trinity Sunday is the celebration of the path to full humanity.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, June 17, 2011

Thanksgiving is inseparable from true prayer ….. One who
always prays is ever giving praise, whether in ease or pain,
both for prosperity and for the greatest adversity. He blesses
God for all things, looks on them as coming from Him, and
receives them for His sake- not choosing nor refusing, liking
or disliking anything, but only as it is agreeable or disagreeable
to His perfect will.

John Wesley, priest, hymn writer; he was born on this date, 1703

I have no truck with this kind of thinking, be it from the 18th C or now ….. if it assumes a capricious God being nice at some times and nasty at others. (I do, though, understand Wesley’s comment in its cultural and time setting.)

But when one understands “God” in the context of Unconditional Love as portrayed by Jesus in Word and Deed, all difficulties dissolve. God is the Great Mystery we call Life. And Life is essentially a Blessing and a Gift, inclusive of its joys and its sorrows.

God’s “perfect will”, as I understand it from my experience of the Gospel, is one thing only: to love. Dennis and I visited a parishioner today in hospital who is seemingly at the last stages of congestive heart failure. He was calm, cheerful, welcoming friends, being appreciative and joking with the staff, chatting with his roommate. Consciously reflecting the God of Love he knows deeply. What Life gives, he is meeting it with love and trust and peace and lack of fear.

Yes, I know that there are so many people in the World who have only misery to deal with. It would be hard to expect them to catch a glimpse of the possibility of knowing Life as a gift to give praise for “in all things”. But for those of us who have been blessed with the experience of how fine Life can be, myself included, I feel it is my sacred privilege to do my best to, as Wesley says, give Thanks for the opportunity to love and for the love we have known, whether times be “agreeable or disagreeable”.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, June 16, 2011

If the eye of the heart is open, in each
atom there will be one hundred secrets.


I’m not drawn to say much. I just really like the quote! It makes me think about the Wonder of being a person, of the mystery of the vast inner universe to which the vast and beguiling visible Universe points.

I always understood and valued the deep reverence that “high church” worship instilled in me, focused as it was on reverence for the Eucharistic Body and Blood of the Christ, honouring the “one hundred secrets” of each atom of the bread and wine hidden in the simple elements. I always wished that more attention was paid to making the connection with the Human Person, to the honour and deep reverence due every person, understood as a manifestation of God. Without that connection, it seemed more magic than Mystery.

I don’t know what the World’s religions are teaching these days but, looking about, I think they have most of them lost their way, captured and seduced by shallow desires. And it shows - in the shocking disrespect for each other.

Perhaps today we could focus on seeing that our “eye of the heart” is open.

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, June 15, 2011

All things are perceived in the light of charity,
and hence under the aspect of beauty; for beauty
is simply reality seen with the eyes of love.

Evelyn Underhill, mystic. This is her Feast Day
in the Episcopal Church Calendar

The apostle Paul said (something like) “Whatever is good, whatever is lovely …. think on these things.” I am thinking about my Sunday School experience at First Presbyterian Church, Verdun, Quebec. Mrs. Clegg playing the piano, and all of us little kids singing “All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small; all things wide and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.” I remember those hymns 60 years later, and I realize how they seeped into my Being and shaped my outlook. I’ve certainly done my share of negative thinking through my Life! But I realize now how those Sunday mornings at “First Pres” were just right, just what a kid needs to “know”.

There should be a course in elementary school where “holy wisdom” from all traditions and cultures are taught. Wouldn’t you like to know that when your child arrived at school in Grade Six, this quote from Ms. Underhill or one like it would be written on the board, and the teacher would ask the kids to read it, and maybe say a few words or give and example of what it means to understand that “Beauty is simply reality seen with the eyes of Love”, and what that means about how they view each other and understand their own value?

Reality is shaped by Love. And that’s why we imagine a God of Love, ceaselessly creating that Reality in each person and in all things.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are
not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?
This is the most important of all voyages of discovery.

Thomas Merton

I think about the World, and all of the divisiveness and separation, and all of the time and energy and resources that are used up in sustaining that separation and division, using religion and culture and a myriad of other tools.

And I think: it is all a metaphor for this inner abyss from ourselves of which Merton speaks. The division and separation we feel within ourselves and from ourselves lies at the root.

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the Truth will set you free.”

I pray for this knowledge of this Truth for us all.


p.s. Today would have been my parents’ 70th wedding anniversary. It is good to think of them.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, June 13, 2011

There are few things worse than people using religion and the
Bible as an excuse to denounce, curse or hurt another person.
Speaking and acting in this way shows a complete misunderstanding
of the purpose of religion, God and the Bible. .. the purpose of religion
as we know it is to enable an individual’s transformation from selfishness
& ego to a new nature of sharing & compassion. That’s it. The Bible and
all its teachings are only a means to assist this transformation.

Michael Berg

Dennis and I had a wonderful time in Umbria. A quiet farm just outside of Assisi with a lovely apartment (including a little fireplace) to rest and cook in. A unique little Fiat “Cinquecentro” (which, and we should learn from this, shuts off the engine when you stop, and automatically starts when you put your foot on the gas!) to drive the charming back roads of Umbria through little villages, finding little ristoranti for lovely lunches. San Damiano was a quiet place to sit and meditate, as was the garden at home. A perfect relaxing time! I lit more candles for lots of folk before more glass-encased saints – my favourite being San Ubaldo (Bishop of Gubbio) way on the top of a mountain that was reached by a ski-life device with little cages two people could stand in – and of course there was the ubiquitous “bar” at the top with good food and wine!

I have said it before and will say again: the principle thing that divides Christians denominations is how to understand and “interpret” the nature of the Bible. How is it “God’s Word”, how was it composed, how is it to be “used” by us. I am with Michael Berg. It is blasphemous to use it to “denounce, curse, or hurt other people”. To do so is, I believe, to deny and reject the spirit of the Christ and His Gospel.

God calls us from “selfishness and ego to a new nature of sharing and compassion”.

This is, I believe, Godly Life ….. and truly human life.

Thanks to all (47 of you) who asked me to light a candle and pray for you and your concerns. It was my privilege.