Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Penetrating Illusions, Touching Reality

Conventional scripts can dictate erroneous assumptions about reality. Dominant scrips can be hegemonic in their false assumptions. The enlightened person penetrates illusions and is thus able to touch reality. In the end, as harsh and challenging as reality may be, we are better off and closer to becoming more fully human and in position to fathom redemption and discover resolutions .

Graphic:  Respiratory Syncitial Virus Ribonucleoprotein viewed in its symmetry of nature: Multicellular Organic Neural Network  

Human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV) is the leading viral cause of serious pediatric respiratory tract disease worldwide and a common cause of morbidity in the elderly. Currently there is no vaccine available and the only treatment is a monoclonal antibody given to high-risk infants.

                           At Our Best

Religion receives, reads, interprets ancient texts;
shapes rubrics, schools virtues, sustains peaceably;
humans dialogue, co-op, fathom redemption
against all odds, absence, and clear resolutions.

Animated by innocent intuition
science tests, tells of physical reality,
proposes with awe-provoking curiosities
promising cures and models of causality.

At our best we move amid shadows, forms, echoes;
acknowledge the unknown; are baffled by existence;
sit before, name objects; doubt and apply silence . . .
warmed by the sun, we find our way with reverence.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christian Wiman, a Poet for the Gentle Cynic

Christian Wiman, a poet whose verse informs faith and religion in a secular reality, a bard of sorts for the Christian atheist or the struggling orthodox sojourner.

See Interview: Christian Wiman on PBS.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Contemplating the Way It Is

Occasionally I meet someone who says something along the lines, “I believe everything happens for a reason,” and that’s it. When I hear this thought, it is usually voiced with a semi-serious tone and a sentimental linguistic mood. I want to ask that person, “What do you really mean?” Is it that you assent to the idea that when something good or bad happens, it happens with some design behind it, i.e., by a higher power (God)? Or is this only true sometimes? Perhaps you mean there is a rational way of contemplating everything that occurs in the world, whether it provides some transcendental meaning or not? Often a person will project this thought during a moment when they do not know what to say or how to say what they are uncomfortably feeling (anxiety), which makes the statement dubious at best. Perhaps they could take a lesson from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s final proposition in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.” (Silence suggests a number of things in terms of human functional : saying nothing because there is nothing to be said, contemplation, and listening to the other.)

The problem of having to say something when we really have no valid explanation except something that really has little meaning lies in the reality that the human intellect struggles to deal with a world filled with chaos and uncertainty. The Greeks had a system of gods to deal with this mix by submitting to the wild chaotic world beyond one’s own will and getting used to the idea that your rational plans will be knocked about by larger forces. The ecstatic part of this ancient religion led to throwing oneself into the chaos, by leaving your rationality at the shore while the wind and storms took you wherever. In other words, you transcend by letting go of what is human—rationality, pride, and planning. While this may seem foolish, the Greeks retained a high view of the universe which they read humanity into—ecstasy, pleasure, a mind, a divinity.

It does not take much imagination to see that there are many problems in life for which individuals and groups throw or spin off into some kind of sentimental thought pattern while often couching it under the pretext of “faith” or “belief.”  Faith” in its original Greek meaning has to do with deep commitment and trust that calls for intimate knowledge. While one may be unable to fully comprehend the depth of what is trusted, one continues to apply other virtues and thoughtfulness within one’s community in order to build a foundation and structure that can exist more fully. Furthermore, regarding serious matters that may have “reasons” behind their happenings and should be considered or at least acknowledged (or heard); one is incapable and should give due thoughtfulness (forethought or thoughtful planning), which without will lead to ignorance and even apathy.

Plato argued that “to speak well of the gods to men is far easier than to speak well of men to men.” Serious rationality by itself offers some self-sufficiency on a small scale with a high probability of setbacks and failure. Plato’s solution was both logical and transcendent. One does not use logic to overcome the chaos; rather, one uses logic because logic itself is beauty and is truth. Plato put forward the idea that contemplation of the way things really are is, in itself, a purifying process that can bring human beings into the only divinity there is.

The Te Tao-Ching, by Lao-tzu (63) provides wisdom for dealing with challenging matters and reframes the tension we all too often feel.

(It is the way of the Tao) to act without (thinking of) acting; to conduct affairs without (feeling the) trouble of them; to taste without discerning any flavour; to consider what is small as great, and a few as many; and to recompense injury with kindness.
(The master of it) anticipates things that are difficult while they are easy, and does things that would become great while they are small. All difficult things in the world are sure to arise from a previous state in which they were easy, and all great things from one in which they were small. Therefore the sage, while he never does what is great, is able on that account to accomplish the greatest things.
He who lightly promises is sure to keep but little faith; he who is continually thinking things easy is sure to find them difficult. Therefore the sage sees difficulty even in what seems easy and so never has any difficulties.
Jesus in the Christian tradition via the gospel narratives is portrayed as having assisted the religious society of his day by drawing out the radical Jewish meaning from long-standing, obsolete aphorisms that were missing the mark. One such example from the Gospel according to Matthew (5.43-4), “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. . .”

And so, you have heard it said, “Everything happens for a reason.” But I say unto you, listen, be thoughtful, and acknowledge only what you learn regarding the way it is. You will be a more flourishing human being  and society for it.

Stafford in this poem highlights need to pay attention to one another; for if we are not careful, we may miss a subtlety (brushed off with some sentimental thought) that in the end , if not recognized and acknowledged, might lead to some kind of cruelty.

A Ritual To Read To Each Other
William Stafford
If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider--
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give--yes or no, or maybe--
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

Plato, Critias (360 B.C.E), translated by Benjamin Jowett.
Jennifer Michael Hecht, Doubt, a History. NY: Harper Collins, 2003.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.
Lao-tzu, The Tao-te Ching, translated by James Legge
Gospel according to Matthew (NRSV)
William Stafford, “A Ritual to Read to Each Other”

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Brief Musing from Qohelet - Tears verses Power: Morris Jastrow

Both Job and Koheleth, however, represent the reaction on those who had the courage to face the facts of existence against what had come to be the conventional religious view of a world in which as was assumed goodness and justice must be triumphant, because the supreme Ruler possesses these attributes. The Book of Job in its original form ends in a non liquet, in a practical admission that the problem is insoluble with a faint suggestion, however, as a crumb of comfort, that what may be hidden from us may nevertheless rest on a basis of divine equity. There may be a compensation for innocent suffering, but such a possibility is concealed behind a thick mist through which the human mind cannot penetrate. Koheleth says why try to solve the problem? It will be of no use, for arguments cannot change facts, and the solution, if one could be found, will not mitigate the injustice and suffering in the world. It does not ease Job's pain when suffering the tortures of the damned to be told that it is all a test even if it were true; and it would only increase his misery to become convinced that he must have committed some misdeed, which is certainly not true, for the point is that Job was "God fearing and removed from evil." By all means, believe in a just and merciful Providence if you can, says Koheleth, but be frank enough to recognize that you "cannot fathom the work of God from the beginning to the end" (iii. n). Do not delude yourself with high-sounding phrases that are empty of meaning. The jargon of the pious merely serves to close your eyes to the wrongs that are being done, and to shut your ears against hearing the pitiful cries of those who suffer for no good reason. Tears verses Power—such is the world. 
A Gentle Cynic, Morris Jastrow, Jr. J. B. Lippincott, 1919, 146-7

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Expressing Human Flourishing Niche in the Langauge of Christian Atheism

Having been re-text'd by flourishing human companions and a seasons of time, I have perceived a niche among the world in the form of a poetic (missional) statement using language that I name as Christian Atheism. It comes from recent emerging seasons of honest doubt and learning to speak differently, knowing "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence." (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, L. Wittgenstein), and a prayer of Meister Eckhart, “I pray God make me free of God."

Sun rises
sun sets

to the Way it is.


riven things

among minjung

by word become wind.



beyond itself


may humanity

Over much time contemplating the past and current context of Christian theology and the manifestations of religious practice in Christian tradition, I continue to re-tool language that allows me to be truthful while conveying reality intelligibly in a fragmented world filled with harsh realities. In doing so (an ongoing project), I have come to realize what Peter Rollins seeks to express in his evolving theology of Christian atheism. Christian atheism has come to be a necessary practice in this age where a religious view of life that sees everything as working towards an ultimate plan ultimately controlled by a sovereign God (deus ex machina) must die at the cross where Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” Thus our participation in this crucifixion means laying down that worldview and that concept of God (or "cut off from the system that we construct and which constructs us"). We must embrace the pain, the darkness, and the uncertainty that are real. In place of this “religion” Peter Rollins says “[T]he Resurrection points us to a new way of living and thinking of God. God is not an object to be loved, but he is found in the very act of loving others” (the ultimate inclusion of "all" who are captured in the almost hackneyed phrase which still points to the perfection worth shouting for, viz., 'for God so loved the WORLD' [male, female, gay, straight, Jew, Muslim, "criminal", ignorant religious, conservative christian, etc.]). Insurrection, New York: Howard Books, 2001, p. 123. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Collection of essays answers fundamental questions of nonviolence in Christianity

Collection of essays answers fundamental questions of nonviolence in Christianity

A Faith Not Worth Fighting For will put fresh wind in the sails of a postmodern generation that is quickly moving away from the triumphalistic, militant, God-and-country Christianity of American theocracy and toward the peaceable, humble, uncompromisingly nonviolent Christianity of Christ again. At the end of the day, that's what we need -- a Christianity that looks like Jesus again, and that takes the cross seriously. After all, we can look at the Bible and find verses that justify violence and nonviolence. We can look at history and find strong arguments to make a case for war and to make a case for pacifism. But in the end we must ask, what looks the most like Jesus?
If we want to see what love looks like as it stares evil in the face, we need only look at the cross. It is the cross that shows us the nonviolent love of God, a God who loves enemies so much he dies for them ... for us. It is that cross that makes no sense to the wisdom of this world and that confounds the logic of smart bombs. That triumph of Christ's execution and resurrection was a victory over violence, hatred, sin, and everything ugly in the world. And it is the triumph of the glorious resurrection that fills us with the hope that death is dead -- if only we will let it die.
As the early Christians said, "For Christ, we can die, but we cannot kill." That is a truth at the heart of the Gospel: there is something worth dying for, but nothing in the world worth killing for.”  - Shane Claiborne

Friday, August 24, 2012

NYPD Admits Muslim Spy Program Generated No Leads or Terrorism Investigations -- US has Turned Blind Eye to Far Right-Wing Extremist

NYPD Admits Muslim Spy Program Generated No Leads or Terrorism Investigations -- Only Controversy

Daryl Johnson, a former analyst for the Department of Homeland Security warned that the election of the first African-American president, combined with recession-era economic anxieties, could fuel a rise in far-right violence.


The current economic and political climate has some similarities to the 1990s when rightwing extremism experienced a resurgence fueled largely by an economic recession, criticism about the outsourcing of jobs, and the perceived threat to U.S. power and sovereignty by other foreign powers.

During the 1990s, these issues contributed to the growth in the number of domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups and an increase in violent acts targeting government facilities, law enforcement officers, banks, and infrastructure sectors. 

Growth of these groups subsided in reaction to increased government scrutiny as a result of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and disrupted plots, improvements in the economy, and the continued U.S. standing as the preeminent world power.

The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.
(U)  Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely.  It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Politicians, Do No Harm

Aaron Carroll, a pediatrician and professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine commented, "In politics . . . you win by scaring people into thinking [about] what the other side will do."  Perhaps each side could take an ethics lesson from the medical profession "to do no harm" As the Te Tao Ching reads (60) . . .

Ruling a big nation is like frying a small fish.
With the presence of Tao beneath heaven,
The evil (spirits) cannot extent their power.
It's not only that the evil (spirits) cannot extent their power,
But its power cannot harm anyone.
It was not even that their power cannot harm anyone,
A ruler also DOES No HARM to anyone.
Since BOTH do no mutual harm to each other,

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Andrew Bacevich: how war without end became the rule

Andrew Bacevich is the soldier turned writer who’s still unlearning and puncturing the Washington Rules of national security. The rules have turned into doctrines, he’s telling us, of global war forever. He is talking about the scales that have fallen from the eyes of a slow learner, as he calls himself — a dutiful, conformist Army officer who woke up at the end of the Cold War twenty years ago to the thought that the orthodoxy he’d accepted was a sham.
Andrew Bacevich’s military career ran from West Point to Vietnam to the first Gulf War in 1991. The short form of the story he’s been writing for a decade now is: how unexamined failure in Vietnam became by today a sort of repetition compulsion in Iraq and Afghanistan. Washington Rules is Andrew Bacevich’s fourth book in a project to unmask American empire, militarism, over-reach and what sustains them.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A "Theology" of the Second Amendment

“God forbid that we question even a single tenet of the theology of firearms”, writes   E.J. Dionne, Jr  in “The Gag Rule on Guns.  A “theology” rings loudly as I am reminded of the practice of some “Christian right” who are ardent protectors of guns. The article citing a Louisville church where unloaded weapons were allowed at an event celebrating Second Amendment, is one example that prompts the question, how is carrying guns in spaces called church “good news”?

The gun brandishing religious Americans are somehow self-deceived through their use of argumentum ad verecundiam. When asked about the practice of celebrating the Second Amendment (which for them includes bringing one’s weapon to church), interviewed sources (at the Louisville church) referenced the “forefathers of our nation”. There was no mention of the forefathers of the church or the alternative society that emerged in the midst of other nation states or empire, e.g., the Roman Empire. There was no remembrance of the sins of many of our American forefathers who, e.g., generally accepted pro-slavery ideology and practices while applying some kind of interpretive reasoning or biblical "theory", which included biblical texts. Moreover, for these 21st century religious cowboys, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution seems to be their primary text, while many of the stories and exhortations of the Biblical text that suggest non-violent practices are far from their minds.

It seems that this kind of self-deception is correlative to identities being nurtured, formed, and socialized by the American dominant script, which is one of certitude, privilege, and entitlement. One of the crucial flaws of this religious thinking and practice is the story or script they knowingly or unknowingly embrace about who and what they are. Many of these kinds of church folk have little stomach for doubt and little aptitude or imagination for working with an alternative, counter script; i.e., the Christian narrative in its fullness. Thus having lost their way, they cannot navigate and negotiate their lives through what Walter Brueggemann describes as the “the ragged, disjunctive character of this counter-script.”

“That script is not monolithic, one dimensional or seamless. It is ragged and disjunctive and incoherent. Partly it is ragged and disjunctive and incoherent because it has been crafted over time by many committees. But it is also ragged and disjunctive and incoherent because the key character [God] is illusive and irascible in freedom and in sovereignty and in hiddenness.”

These self-deceived quasi churches across the American landscape such as New Bethel Church in Louisville are a mix of an intellectually and spiritually undernourished group of people who call themselves “Christian” while also trying to erect some kind of American ruggedness club. If they are to become more fully human as measured against “authentic, undiminished humanity,” embodied in Jesus, they will need to revive in their collective settings the rich Christian tradition and practice of casuistry with an aim to better understand their connectiveness in this fragmented world of competing narratives. In this case, it is proverbial mixing of oil and water, viz., American nationalism dubbed over and against the Christian narrative.

On another level, this self-deception is what Thomas Merton called Promethean Theology (The New Man): a human obsession with what is "mine" and "thine", i.e., between what is “mine” and what belongs to God. Like the prodigal son, there is separation from what is “his” and the rest of God’s possessions. Seeking a “soul full of my rights”, the gun-brandishing “Christian” has forgotten (from a lack of contemplation) the reality that we are to ‘Never take your own vengeance . . . for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay”, says the Lord.’ Our action is clear, “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; and if he is thirsty, give him a drink . . . do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” (The Letter of Paul to the Romans 12, which is key and context to understanding the often mis-interpreted Chapter 13)

Instead of seeking to defend themselves and our “individual rights”, may they and may we all engage in the work of contemplation, nurture, formation, and socialization by the practices of preaching, liturgy, casuistry, social action, spirituality, and neighboring of all kinds, such as hospitality and non-violent responses. Perhaps we might start with a modest proposal from the Mennonite Central Committee, “Let the Christians of the world agree that they will not kill each other.”

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Te-Tao Verse for America

Here is Te-Tao verse for America whose dominant script is a script of technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism that socializes us all, liberal and conservative. (see Brueggemann's 19 Theses)

When the world has the Way, riding horses are retired to fertilize the fields.
When the world strays from the Way, war horses are bred even in the cities.

Of crimes--none is greater than having things that one desires;
Of disasters--none is greater than not knowing when one has enough.
Of defects--none brings more sorrow than the desire to attain.
Therefore, the contentment one has when he knows that he has enough, is enduring contentment indeed. 

Te (Virtue), 46, Lao-Tzu Te-Tao Ching 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Societal anxiety: the fear of facing reality and ignorance of the ancient text

Chris Hedges, "War on Gays," highlights (among other things) how societal anxiety has led to increased regression on the part of some malignant groups who have become fused in their symptomatic hatred for gays. This is a sign of chronic anxiety called "herding" where groups (organizations) organize their existence around the least mature, poorly defined leaders, the most dependent, or the most dysfunctional members of their “colony” (e.g. Liberty University), instead of adapting toward strength.  

Gay activist and Pastor Mel White highlight a significant point. "What other source of homophobia is there but six verses in the Bible? When Bible literalists preach that LGBT people are going to hell they become Christian terrorists. They use fear as their weapon, like all terrorists. They are seeking to deny our religious and civil rights. They threaten to turn our democracy into a fundamentalist theocracy. 

Fundamentalist and conservative Christian colonies in their sectarian influence are seeking to persuade the empire (government) to legitimize their fear, hatred and delusions instead of utilizing the ancient practices of theological dialogue and casuistry.

If you want to be less anxious, more fully human and expand your awareness (you know, like Jesus), thus penetrating the narrowness of the conventional religious debate you hear in the media, who predominantly cover the highly reactive fundamentalist and literalist (with flipped lids), here are some sources to begin exploring story, Scripture and theology:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Celebrating the Wise Fool

While completing residency training in a hospital providing pastoral care as a chaplain, I began to see how the role or image of a wise fool is helpful. The chaplain in the midst of the medical temple in some respect is a figure that can be understood through the caricature of the clown in the circus when juxtaposed with the overly objectifying medical diagnostic and treatment team (a relationship I also perceive as a counselor and social worker in terms of the hegemony of the mental health profession). In this brief focus, this is how the chaplain is perceived and operates no mater how serious or pious he or she might be. This relationship and tension is described by Heije Faber this way (Images of Pastoral Care: Classic Readings, Robert C. Dykstra, Ed. St Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2005, 88):

[T]here is an element of solidarity with the patient, but the role of the doctor towards the patient demands objectivity. Here lies the real difference in the role of the minister. His solidarity with the patient is peculiarly his own, different from that of the doctor; it springs from a familiarity with the boundary situation. The solidarity of the doctor and the patient is that of comrades-in-arms; that of the minister is that of standing with the patient in the difficulties and opportunities of boundary situations. In this solidarity the minister, like the clown, will seek to make himself small, but in doing he will point towards the great things, which can set the sick man free, show him the (divine) humor of the situation, so that in the midst of his suffering he will raise a smile.

This highlights the need for care verse cure which Stanley Hauerwas wisely argues, '[M]edicine has traditionally had a role in caring for the body, the development of ever increasing possibilities of "cure" has burdened medicine with expectations bordering on the idolatrous.' ("Salvation and Health: Why Medicine Needs the Church" in Suffering Presence: Theological Reflections on Medicine, the Mentally Handicapped, and the Church, 1986)

Erasmus In Praise of Folly provides a contrast between the simpleton or “natural fool” (a term used in medieval times) and the “artificial fool” (i.e., the professional court jester). Like the natural fool, the chaplain may fail to completely understand the more complex aspects of the medical disciplines as well as a capacity to predict consequences in relation to the patient’s condition. However this lack of “sophistication” gives a refreshing directness to the simpler person’s manner of relation to the other. This is then a physical immediacy in responses of affection and anger and a lack of hypocrisy in the things said. One can understand how the “natural fool” was the precursor of the professional court fool, who had license to speak hard truths to the king. This force is well portrayed in Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, e.g., when Prince Myshkin’s honesty and simplicity exposes the corruptions of those around him while through his gentle and perceptive manner offers people a way back to their true selves. This effect is summed up by Ganya this way, “What made me think this morning that you were an idiot? You notice things other people never notice. One could have a real talk to you, though, perhaps, one had better not.” [Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot]

Alastair Campbell, who finds the wise fool as a necessary figure for reflection and imitation, cites Paul’s advice, “If anyone among you thinks he is wise by this world’s standards, he should become a fool, in order to be really wise.” (1Co 3.18)

The major characteristics of a wise fool as described by Campbell are simplicity (reflected in a refreshing directness and refusal to put on personal airs or engage in professional gamesmanship), loyalty (reflected in an undramatic but persistent loyalty to others in disregard to self), and prophecy (reflected in a tendency to challenge the accepted norms, conventions, and authorities within the society).

The major function of “wise fool” is to help us to see ourselves in a clearer light, most dramatically in the prophetic role and less in the simplicity and loyalty. Through personal simplicity, the wise fool challenges us to conduct our professional lives with less self-serving distortion. Through personal loyalty, the wise fool challenges us to be more truthful in our interpersonal relationships. Within a revisionist model the wise fool challenges the preference for darkness, deception and illusions for light and truth, inviting us to view our/others situation from a higher/cosmological/universal/God’s perspective. It is no accident that Saint Francis of Assisi, a prototype of foolish wisdom, who regarded himself as a frater minor, a fool deserving nothing but contempt and dishonor, is also celebrated for his tender love for God and for God’s creatures, big and small.

Lily Tomlin in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, tells of such a figure. She witnessed Trudy, a bag lady, from whom there lived the “kind of madness Socrates talked about, a divine release of the soul from the yoke of custom and convention. “ She is a modern-day Wise Fool, whose loss of sanity opened her mind to the cosmos. Pearson interprets the character a Trudy as one who explains “reality” as nothing more than a “collective hunch” which is “the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it.” She decides to let go of it through the natural use of humor—jokes. (Carol S. Pearson, Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help us Find Ourselves and Transform our World. New York: Harper Collins, 1991)

“The Triple Fool”

John Donne

I am two fools, I know,
For loving, and for saying so
In whining poetry;
But where's that wise man, that would not be I,
If she would not deny?
Then as th' earth's inward narrow crooked lanes
Do purge sea water's fretful salt away,
I thought, if I could draw my pains
Through rhyme's vexation, I should them allay.
Grief brought to numbers cannot be so fierce,
For he tames it, that fetters it in verse.

But when I have done so,
Some man, his art and voice to show,
Doth set and sing my pain,
And, by delighting many, frees again
Grief, which verse did restrain.
To Love and Grief tribute of Verse belongs,
But not of such as pleases when 'tis read;
Both are increasèd by such songs:
For both their triumphs so are published,
And I, which was two fools, do so grow three.
Who are a little wise, the best fools be.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Car-Free or Lite Living: a Path to Sustainable Living

After four years using a bicycle as my primary mode of transportation and recent selling of my car, I share six questions to determine whether you might be a potential candidate for living car free or car-lite. The more you can answer in the affirmative, the closer you are to a smooth transition to living car-free.

1. Can you get over your ego? In an image-centric culture, there is a dominate illusion, that says if you do not drive or have a car, you’re a loser. After four years of clear and numerous benefits, you can call me whatever you want. I am not the one sitting in traffic, paying almost $4 a gallon while wishing I were fitter.

2. Can you get to work reliably without a car? There are some obvious variables to consider with this question, but this basic question grows out of an important statistic. 40% of city travel is done within two miles or less, while 90% of those trips are by automobile (US DOT), e.g., trips to work, the local store, school, bank, coffee shop or restaurant.

3. Do you live in or near a city, urban area or diverse development? Cities provide a number of alternative transportation options: pedestrian infrastructure, trails, and public transportation. Location and distance from where you work is a major factor, but so are the alternative options. Position yourself (that may mean moving or just perceiving) where you have multiple transportation options other than using a car and be ahead of the game.

4. Do you have access to public transportation? While a bicycles (a piece of low tech, nearly divine epitome of sustainability) just happens to be my preferred form of transportation, when the whether is really bad, I take a bus. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 49% of Americans live near a public transit stop. Riding the bus allows time to converse with people, read a book, or just enjoy the scenes that are often missed when concentrating of the traffic.

Tips for riding transit

5. Do you live in close proximity to amenities? Many people live within one to two miles of the basic amenities, e.g., library, park, church, local market and restaurants. There is not a place in town I cannot get to without either riding my bike or talking the bus.

6. Are you flexible? Being car-free or even car-lite means being adaptable. You have to make changes which means changing old ways of thinking and doing. When this gets challenging, I like chasing the emotion behind my resistance to change and connecting it to my behavioral pattern. This kind of reflection helps promote the kind of mindfulness necessary to create real, lasting change.

Here’s a good source, “Car-lite family beginnings

I am thankful to Chris Balish, who wrote How to Live Well Without Owning a Car: save money, breathe easier, and get more mileage out of life. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2006. Chris wrote a challenging book that offers not only great questions but offers solutions to answering those questions.

Break the cycle; live free!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Preparing for Lent

I record a brief reflection from an ongoing exegesis of I Corinthians 12:24b-31, which helps take me into the Lenten Season.

In todays dominate culture the body of Christ needs to take stock of the impact of inherent societal scripting both individually and corporately. E.g., the systems of accumulation* in our Western and now growing global economies naturally generate anxiety (from the illusion of need promoted via corporate advertisement to the fear of economic collapse) leading to various vices, which if not exposed and changed (metanoia) result in patterns of oppression that find their way in church communities. St. Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthian church calls us to step back and practice radical awareness and engagement of gifts (cari,smata) which allow us to cultivate a capacity to suffer and rejoice (sympathize) with the other. Through practices that connect and care (merimna,w, 1Cor 12: 25) for the members who lack, we help promote the reversal of symptoms and causes of anxiety in the community via “the more excellent way.”

* See
'Notes on Walter Brueggemann and “The Food Fight: Accumulation and Abundance"'

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Growing on the previous post, a poem written by Daniel Berrigan from his book, Prayer for the Morning Headlines: On the Sanctity of Life and Death


draw the mind free of habitual

animal ease. Sough of tides in the heart,

massive and moony, is not our sound.

But hope and despair together

bring tears to face, and a human ground,

death mask and comic, such speech

as hero and commoner devise, make sense

contrive our face. To expunge

either, is to cast snares for the

ghost a glancing heart makes

along a ground, and airy goes its way.

And Yeats, "Sailing to Byzantine,"

Consume my heart, sick with desire

And fastened to a dying animal

It knows not what is . . .

Friday, January 13, 2012

Viral Images: Cruelity and the Fact of Evil

The recent video of Marines desecrating the corpses of Taliban fighters killed in Afghanistan demonstrates a reality of what war creates, a culture of evil that disseminates into our everyday cultural script. This grotesque episode reveals what kind of people we are (plural) if we don’t know the kind of person (individual, group) you are, a pattern that others made that prevails in the world (in the words of William Stafford, “A Ritual to Read to Each Other”)

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,

But if one wanders the circus wont’ find the park,

I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty

To know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

The “fact” is well described by Chris Hedges who serviced many years as a war correspondent (in War is a Force that gives us Meaning).

“The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug, one I ingested for many years. It is peddled by myth makers—historians, war correspondents, film makers, novelists, and the state—all of whom endow it with qualities it often does possess: excitement, exoticism, power, chances to rise above our small stations in life and a bizarre and fantastic universe that has a grotesque and dark beauty. It dominates culture, distorts memory, corrupts language, and infects everything around it, even humor, which becomes preoccupied with the grim perversities of smut and death. Fundamental questions about the meaning, or meaninglessness, of our place on the planet are laid bare when we watch those around us sink to the lowest depths. War exposes the capacity for evil that lurks not far below the surface within all of us. And this is why for many, war is so hard to discuss once it is over.”

The reason why people are so surprised by this and other recent news of deplorable conduct by military personnel is partly because it is below the surface in the dominant societal script, a pervasive script that nurtures us all. The dominate script is “technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism” socializing us all, liberal and conservative; unless we are awake to this fact, disengage and overcome it via an alternative meta narrative that breeds holistic life.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,

a remote important region in all who talk:

though we could fool each other, we should consider--

lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,

or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;

the signals we give—yes or no, or maybe—

should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

Photograph: William Stafford

Monday, January 2, 2012

C-Span In Depth with Author and Journalist Chris Hedges

A must see three-hour interview, probing Chris Hedge's entire body of work. It is a comprehensive and power discussion with one of the most important reporters on what he characterizes as our collapsing corporate empire. Follow this link to watch the video.

Chris Hedges is a Senior Fellow at The Nation Institute in New York City. A former foreign correspondent for the New York Times, he was part of the team that won a 2002 Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of global terrorism. He also received the 2002 Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism. Mr. Hedges is author of "Losing Moses on the Freeway" and "War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning," the latter of which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School.

Chris Hedges is the author of nine books:

War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning (2002); What Every Person Should Know About War (2003); Losing Moses on the Freeway: The Ten Commandments in America (2005); American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (2007); I Don't Believe in Atheists (2008): Collateral Damage: America's War Against Iraqi Civilians (2008); Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (2009); The Death of the Liberal Class (2010); The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress (2011).

Chris Hedges is in my estimation a modern day prophet, who is also a true and faithful journalist willing to take the risk of exposing the whole truth and context of the stories he covers. Chris Hedges' voice nurtures, nourishes and evokes a conscientiousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominate culture around us, which is held captive pervasively by the corporate empire, an "empire of illusion" that is underwritten by our political system. Chris Hedges possesses a deep capacity to penetrate the illusions of our society and is today a significant advocate, activist, and speaker with the Occupy movement across the nation. He writes a weekly column for Truthdig.