Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Carl Anderson Appreciation Group


. . . Yes, this is my latest online venture – a Facebook group dedicated to the life and musical legacy of Carl Anderson. It can be accessed here, though to view it you have to have a profile on the Facebook social media platform.




Here's how I describe the group:

Welcome to the Facebook group that celebrates the life and musical legacy of Carl Anderson (February 27, 1945 – February 23, 2004).

For over three decades after his meteoric rise to fame playing Judas in the Broadway and film versions of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, Carl Anderson was an accomplished and well-respected song stylist within the genres of jazz, soul, pop, and R&B. He released nine albums between 1982 and 1996. In addition, Carl made memorable duets with other artists and provided solo guest vocals on a number of songs by others. Artists he worked with included Weather Report, Nancy Wilson, The Rippingtons, Michael Paulo, Gloria Loring, Maynard Ferguson, Gerald McCauley, Eric Marienthal, Brenda Russell, Dan Siegel, Lisa Deveaux, and Linda Eder.

Carl died on February 23, 2004, after an 8-month struggle with leukemia. He was less than a week away from his 59th birthday. . . . His memory and his music, however, live on.




Like my other online projects, including The Wild Reed and A Prince Named Valiant, this latest project is an opportunity for me to creatively inform and inspire others on a topic that interests and inspires me. In this case, it's the life and music of Carl Anderson.

Currently, the Carl Anderson Appreciation Group has 75 members. My hope is to expand its membership beyond my circle of family and friends!

So . . . if you're reading this and know and love the music of Carl Anderson (or just want to learn more about him) and are on Facebook, then I welcome you to consider joining. Again, just click here to join. Thanks!




So what exactly is shared at and by the Carl Anderson Appreciation Group? Well, pretty basic stuff, really . . . music and images of Carl and information about his career – one that involved both singing and acting.

I'll close with a recent example of something I've shared, an example that spotlights both the song “Buttercup” and information about Carl's recording of it.

“Buttercup” is a song that Stevie Wonder contributed to Carl's 1982's debut solo album Absence With Out Love. It was also included, four years later, on Carl's self-titled album. Written around 1974, “Buttercup” derives from a planned collaboration of Wonder and the Jackson 5. With Wonder producing, the Jackson 5 recorded “Buttercup” as well as a handful of other tracks, but they remained unreleased until the 2009 compilation I Want You Back! Unreleased Masters.

Here's what music critic Kit O'Toole writes about Carl’s 1982 recording of “Buttercup” . . .

Anderson's take underscores Wonder's fondness for sophisticated chord changes, and the popping bass line adds an element of funk. The singer fluctuates between jazz and R&B, displaying his vocal power and ability to scat. Listen to how he effortlessly navigates the complicated chorus, the wordiness and rhythms challenging the average vocalist. While Michael Jackson does an admirable job on the difficult chord changes and precise rhythms – lending “Buttercup” a distinctly youthful air – Anderson's polished technique better emphasizes Wonder's jazz leanings.

. . . Few vocalists can travel through multiple genres – sometimes all in one song – and Anderson's smooth, supple voice could impressively accomplish that task. His understated style may seem simple, but his refined technique shines through every track he recorded.





For more of Carl Anderson at The Wild Reed, see:
Revisiting a Groovy Jesus (and a Dysfunctional Theology)
Carl Anderson
Carl Anderson: "One of the Most Enjoyable Male Vocalists of His Era"
With Love Inside
Acts of Love . . . Carl's and Mine


Images: Stills from the 1993 music video for Eric Marienthal's "Walk Through the Fire." Carl provides the vocals for this track by fellow GRP label mate Marienthal. The footage of Carl (starting at 1:30) is wonderful; he puts so much physical and vocal expression into his delivery of the lyrics. He definitely works his magic and transforms this otherwise lightweight video into something with real depth and feeling. Check it out here.


Monday, December 10, 2018

An Inquisitive Little Visitor


Finn, the kitty of one of my housemates, recently came into my room . . . and explored my desk.

I'm actually in the process of moving to a new place a few blocks east. I'll still be in south Minneapolis and, thankfully, close to beautiful Minnehaha Creek. I'll definitely miss Finn's cute (and inquisitive) ways.






For more images of Finn, see:
Finn's View of November's "Deepening Cold"
Out and About – Summer 2018


Sunday, December 09, 2018

Guidelines for the Advent of a Universal Mysticism (Part 2)



The Wild Reed’s 2018 Advent series focuses on eight guidelines for interreligious understanding and the recognition and facilitation of a universal approach to mysticism. These guidelines were developed by Thomas Keating and members of the Snowmass Conference. They are excerpted from Wayne Teasdale’s 1999 book, The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions.

Along with many other people, I trust that the coming (or advent) of this universal spirituality is something that the Divine is calling humanity to embrace and embody. (Note: To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)



The Second Guideline

The second guideline conveys the insight that Ultimate Reality cannot be limited by any name or concept. Our words, no matter how technical, precise, or specialized, are incapable of holding or conveying the intense, total, and certain reality of the ultimate in its actual nature. It is completely beyond the capacity of language, thought, imagination, and life to grasp – in any true meaningful way – what the Ultimate Reality actually is. Our life and being are coordinated with [this ultimately mysterious reality].


NEXT: The Third Guideline


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Guidelines for the Advent of a Universal Mysticism: An Introduction
Guidelines for the Advent of a Universal Mysticism (Part 1)
Something Extraordinary . . . Again
In Search of a Global Ethic
The Ground Zero Papal Prayer Service . . . and a Reminder of the Spirituality That Transcends What All the Religions Claim to Represent
A Return to the Spirit
Beltane and the Reclaiming of Spirit
New Horizons: Reflections on A Passage to India
Advent: A “ChristoPagan” Perspective
An Advent Prayer
Advent: The Season of Blessed Paradox
Active Waiting: A Radical Attitude Toward Life
No Other Time, No Other Place
Advent: Renewing Our Connection with the Sacred
Celebrating the Coming of the Sun and the Son
Christmastide Approaches

Opening image:The Prayer Tree” by Michael Bayly. Each of the posts in this series is accompanied by one or two images of what I've come to call the Prayer Tree, that special oak tree by Minnehaha Creek, close to my home in south Minneapolis. This tree and its location serve as a sacred place for me; for as its name suggests, I go there to pray, meditate, and reflect deeply. Also, as my friend McAuley recently pointed out, it serves as a beautiful representation of the axis mundi – the cosmic axis, the center of the world. Often symbolized by a tree, the axis mundi, as both a celestial and geographic pillar, serves as a point of connection between sky (heaven) and earth, the higher and lower realms of consciousness, and the four compass directions. As a representation of the axis mundi, and thus a rich symbol of groundedness, connection, and unity, the "Prayer Tree" seems a very appropriate image for The Wild Reed's 2018 Advent series on universal mysticism.


A Reality Check

The triumphal and counter-factual celebrating of President George H.W. Bush as an “honorable” leader who evoked kindness and “civility” raises a potently crucial question: What does it mean to be civil and kind in person and in word, yet brutal in policy and deed? Despite the gentlemanly veneer, even a cursory recalling of Bush 41’s record shows a legacy of war, violence and venality that belies the media’s amnesiac heroizing.

. . . With his passing, Bush Sr. offers a national reminder of how low the bar has sunk in the Trump presidency. But Bush 41’s death also provides an important teaching moment on the absurdity of separating politician’s personal and public behavior. In politics, and in life, deeds and policies are what count, and those of Bush Sr. were not remotely kind, gentle, or civil.

Christopher D. Cook
Excerpted from “There Is Nothing Kind or Gentle
About George H.W. Bush’s Legacy

In These Times
December 7, 2018


Related Off-site Links:
George H.W. Bush, Icon of the WASP Establishment – and of Brutal US Repression in the Third World – Greg Grandin (The Nation, December 4, 2018).
How George H.W. Bush Rode a Fake National Security Scandal to the Top of the CIA – James Risen (The Intercept, December 8, 2018).
George H. W. Bush’s Presidency Erased People with AIDS. So Did the Tributes to Him – Masha Gessen (The New Yorker, December 7, 2018).
The Media Is Erasing George H.W. Bush’s Catastrophic Harm to LGBTQ People – Michelangelo Signorile (Common Dreams, December 2, 2018).
Poppy Strikes Gold: Bush Sr. Made a Killing – 50 Miners Buried Alive – Greg Palast (GregPalast.com, December 10, 2018).
To the White People Who Penned Sweeping Love Letters to George H.W. Bush – Elie Mystal (The Nation, December 10, 2018).
I Will Not Speak Kindly of the Dead. Bush Was Detestable – Michael I. Niman (TruthOut, December 4, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Reality Check – June 7, 2008
Quote (and Reality Check) of the Day – September 1, 2015
Quote (and Reality Check) of the Day – October 2, 2015


Saturday, December 08, 2018

State of Grace

This evening for "music night" at The Wild Reed I share "State of Grace," a track from Seal's 1998 album, Human Being.

Human Being is Seal's third studio album and gets it name from its opening track, "Human Beings," written about the late rappers Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. Upon its release, the album received mixed reviews, ranging from being critiqued for its overtly dark and moody feel, to being described as 'pop perfection.'" As always, the truth is no doubt somewhere in between.

Written by Seal and Chris Bruce, "State of Grace" is Human Being's second track. I find myself drawn to both its overall sound and its lyrics, especially the following: This is the sound of a woken man / Why don't you tell me it's you . . . I found you / Yeah, but I can't seem to find that state of grace . . . / One touch, one look that is all it takes / These things forever change us. . . .




So strange
It's funny how
We came to meet
Those eyes uncanny
Were my invitation

I couldn't wait
To hold you like a baby
Here's what it feels like
You are here now

Oh, but I . . .
Can't seem to find our state of grace
Who knows tomorrow may never come
One touch, one look that is all it takes
These things forever change us
Oh, I . . . hey

This is the sound of a feeling that's caught in my head
Make me think about something you said
Take away my fears
Oh, I

This is the sound of a woken man
Why don't you tell me it's you, babe
I found you
You, babe

Yeah, but I
Can't seem to find that state of grace
Who knows tomorrow may never come
One touch, one look that is all it takes
These things forever change us

Look at the past
No savoir faire
No, that's not us

Oh, but I . . .
I can't seem to find my state of grace
Who knows tomorrow may never come
One touch, one look that is all it takes
These things forever change us
These things forever change us
These things . . .





Following are three insightful reviews of Seal's Human Being that I came across on Amazon.


Why is it that Seal's albums seem to be readily disposable at first listen but always prove to be more timeless than could be predicted? On Human Being, Seal's third release (and first with a title other than his name), several of the tracks are layered with prominent, syrupy strings, and his predictable vocal crescendos veer dangerously into the land of forgettable grocery-store-intercom adult contemporary. But hang in there; there's a lot more substance here than what will first reach your ear. This complex release is a little harder to categorize than his debut record (the dance album) or his second disc (the power-ballads album). The first two tracks hint that – oh, no – it's going to be another late-'90s trip-hop album, but thankfully, Seal doesn't go there. Listen a couple of times – you'll hear everything from orchestral swells to tinny rhythm guitar, experimental keyboard effects to late-night jazz piano accompanying Seal's standard "Can't we all just get along?" lyrical message. These tracks are heavily produced and thickly layered but at the same time his most intimate and personal songs to date. The album's cover art is a good metaphor for its mood: Seal is naked and crouched over – cowering or ready to strike? So, too, the songs lash out, then plead, then sting, then soothe. Start counting; this album has a long shelf life.

– Beth Bessmer



You know the moment that you meet someone and there's an instant spark? How about the feeling you get when you are inside the hold of a deep crush? 1998's album Human Being kinda gives you the same intense sort of emotions when listening to it. At least in how you connect with it. I mean it was a pretty good album the first time I listened to it. However, I discovered tonight while thinking and experiencing the album that there is absolutely no album like this that Seal has made. Seal II may be most people's favorite but this album is his most beloved by me now (with his sophomore effort slightly trailing in second). While both albums are bona fide CLASSICS this album is less mainstream in favor of darker production and extremely heartfelt lyrics. Whether it's about love, faith or death Seal reaches depths that he didn't quite delve into on his second album. The album is still pretty catchy in spots though. And what's most important is that the songs really grip you in a pleasant chokehold. If there ever was an album in my collection that I never want to let go of, it's this one.

. . . This album reeks of truth! I'm not quite what you'd call someone who is extremely dark in everything that he does. However, there is something about most artistic works where someone bears their soul exposing their trauma, depression, lack of hope, etc., that channels into gravity-defy depths of emotion through song. Think of pop masterpieces like Janet Jackson's The Velvet Rope, Christina Aguilera's Stripped (she still never made an album as eclectic and full of depth as this!) or even one of my absolute favorites John Mayer's Heavier Things. All of these albums express a slight (or heavy) disconnection in a way, but also a TOTAL POURING OUT OF THE SOUL.

Through and through this record is a piece of perfection, a tasteful work of art and without a doubt Seal's magnum opus. I hope that Seal returns to original work for his next release as his own music generally eclipses the cover albums (Soul and Soul II) in spades. Pulsing with true energy and depth this album should have been gobbled up by the masses. Look no further than Human Being.

– Adrian Cooper



In my opinion, Human Being is Seal's best album. Each song is a masterpiece, and all of them have a really powerful, dark [energy]. From "Human Beings" to "No Easy Way,", the album catches your breath and makes you feel a depth of feeling you can't explain. . . .[I]f you listen carefully to the songs, you can find a place for you on each one. All the songs are outstanding, but "State Of Grace," "Just Like You Said," and "Still Love Remains" are just diamonds and my favourites. Give it a chance, because this is one of the 90s' best albums.

– Francisco J. Santos Sánchez


Previous featured musicians at The Wild Reed:
Dusty Springfield | David Bowie | Kate Bush | Maxwell | Buffy Sainte-Marie | Prince | Frank Ocean | Maria Callas | Loreena McKennitt | Rosanne Cash | Petula Clark | Wendy Matthews | Darren Hayes | Jenny Morris | Gil Scott-Heron | Shirley Bassey | Rufus Wainwright | Kiki Dee | Suede | Marianne Faithfull | Dionne Warwick | Seal | Sam Sparro | Wanda Jackson | Engelbert Humperdinck | Pink Floyd | Carl Anderson | The Church | Enrique Iglesias | Yvonne Elliman | Lenny Kravitz | Helen Reddy | Stephen Gately | Judith Durham | Nat King Cole | Emmylou Harris | Bobbie Gentry | Russell Elliot | BØRNS | Hozier | Enigma | Moby (featuring the Banks Brothers) | Cat Stevens | Chrissy Amphlett | Jon Stevens | Nada Surf | Tom Goss (featuring Matt Alber) | Autoheart | Scissor Sisters | Mavis Staples | Claude Chalhoub | Cass Elliot | Duffy | The Cruel Sea | Wall of Voodoo | Loretta Lynn and Jack White | Foo Fighters | 1927 | Kate Ceberano | Tee Set | Joan Baez | Wet, Wet, Wet | Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy | Fleetwood Mac | Jane Clifton | Australian Crawl | Pet Shop Boys | Marty Rhone | Josef Salvat | Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri | Aquilo | The Breeders | Tony Enos | Tupac Shakur | Nakhane Touré | Al Green | Donald Glover/Childish Gambino | Josh Garrels | Stromae | Damiyr Shuford


Friday, December 07, 2018

Quote of the Day

We are deep into the worst case scenarios. But as new sentencing memos for Trump associates Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen make all too clear, the only remaining question is how bad does the actual worst case scenario get?

The potential innocent explanations for Donald Trump’s behavior over the last two years have been steadily stripped away, piece by piece. Special counsel Robert Mueller and investigative reporters have uncovered and assembled a picture of a presidential campaign and transition seemingly infected by unprecedented deceit and criminality, and in regular—almost obsequious—contact with America’s leading foreign adversary.

A year ago, Lawfare’s Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic outlined seven possible scenarios about Trump and Russia, arranged from most innocent to most guilty. Fifth on that list was “Russian Intelligence Actively Penetrated the Trump Campaign – and Trump Knew or Should Have Known,” escalating from there to #6 “Kompromat,” and topping out at the once unimaginable #7, “The President of the United States is a Russian Agent.”

After the latest disclosures, we’re steadily into Scenario #5, and can easily imagine #6.

The Cohen and Manafort court documents all provide new details, revelations, and hints of more to come. They’re a reminder, also, that Mueller’s investigation continues alongside an investigation by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York that clearly alleges that Donald Trump participated in a felony, directing Cohen to violate campaign finance laws to cover up extramarital affairs.

. . . Put together all the clues, and Occam’s Razor comes to mind: The most obvious scenario is the most likely scenario. And the most likely scenario now is that there was no division between the apparent Trump-Russian collusion on business matters and in the 2016 election. The coincidences are piling up. The conversations are piling up.

And Mueller’s evidence is clearly piling up as well.

– Garrett M. Graff
Excerpted from “The Mueller Investigation Nears the Worst Case Scenario
Wired
December 7, 2018





Related Off-site Links and Updates:
Friday Was a Very, Very Bad Day for Donald Trump – Chris Cillizza (CNN, December 7, 2018).
Takeaways from the New Cohen and Manafort Filings – Jeremy Herb, Katelyn Polantz and Marshall Cohen (CNN, December 8, 2018).
Mueller Says Paul Manafort's Plea Deal Void Because Former Trump Campaign Manager “Told Multiple Discernible Lies” – Jessica Corbett (Common Dreams, December 8, 2018).
Mueller Is Telling Us: He’s Got Trump on Collusion – Max Bergmann and Sam Berger (The Daily Beast, December 7, 2018).
Donald Trump Directed a Criminal Conspiracy with Michael Cohen's Campaign Finance Violations, Federal Prosecutors Have Concluded – Alexandra Hutzler (Newsweek, December 7, 2018).
Donald Trump Has Been Tied to a Federal Crime by Prosecutors. Can a President Be Indicted?ABC News (December 8, 2018).
Prosecutors’ Narrative Is Clear: Trump Defrauded Voters. But What Does It Mean? – Peter Baker and Nicholas Fandos (New York Times, December 8, 2018).
If Trump Obtained Presidency by Fraud He Should Be Treated As He Treats Illegal Immigrants, Former Prosecutor Says – Ramsey Touchberry (Newsweek, December 8, 2018).
Russians Interacted with at Least 14 Trump Associates During the Campaign and Transition – Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Carol D. Leonnig (The Washington Post, December 9, 2018).
Is There Anything Trump, Cohen, and Manafort Didn’t Lie About? – James Risen (The Intercept, December 9, 2018).
Senate Republicans Are Responsible for the Most Unethical and Incompetent Administration Ever – Jennifer Rubin (The Washington Post, December 9, 2018).
Trump’s Latest Meltdown Shows Even He Knows This Could Be the Beginning of the End – Inae Oh (Mother Jones, December 10, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – July 16, 2018
Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence
Trump's Playbook
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
A Profoundly Troubling and Tragic Indictment
Michael Sean Winters: "The Entire Republican Establishment Has Caved to Trumpism"


Guidelines for the Advent of a Universal Mysticism (Part 1)



The Wild Reed’s 2018 Advent series focuses on eight guidelines for interreligious understanding and the recognition and facilitation of a universal approach to mysticism. These guidelines were developed by Thomas Keating and members of the Snowmass Conference. They are excerpted from Wayne Teasdale’s 1999 book, The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions.

Along with many other people, I trust that the coming (or advent) of this universal spirituality is something that the Divine is calling humanity to embrace and embody. (Note: To read the introduction to this series, click here.)



The First Guideline

The first guideline acknowledges the place of the ultimate reality in all the religions of the world. It expresses this truth in the following words: The world religions bear witness to the experience of Ultimate Reality to which they give various names: Brahman, Allah, (the) Absolute, God, Great Spirit.

This guideline emphasizes experience, not mere conception. The basis of all the religions lies in the actual experience of these traditions’ founders and leaders, over the course of many centuries. The recognition of the primacy of Ultimate Reality is the result of the mystical process. All the religions accept the place and role of Ultimate Reality, although, because always ineffable, it cannot be sufficiently characterized. All our terms or words are useless in any attempt to “name” the ultimate source.


NEXT: The Second Guideline


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Guidelines for the Advent of a Universal Mysticism: An Introduction
Advent: A “ChristoPagan” Perspective
Something Extraordinary . . . Again
In Search of a Global Ethic
The Ground Zero Papal Prayer Service . . . and a Reminder of the Spirituality That Transcends What All the Religions Claim to Represent
A Return to the Spirit
Beltane and the Reclaiming of Spirit
New Horizons: Reflections on A Passage to India
An Advent Prayer
Advent: The Season of Blessed Paradox
Active Waiting: A Radical Attitude Toward Life
No Other Time, No Other Place
Advent: Renewing Our Connection with the Sacred
Celebrating the Coming of the Sun and the Son
Christmastide Approaches

Opening image:The Prayer Tree” by Michael Bayly. Each of the posts in this series is accompanied by one or two images of what I've come to call the Prayer Tree, that special oak tree by Minnehaha Creek, close to my home in south Minneapolis. This tree and its location serve as a sacred place for me; for as its name suggests, I go there to pray, meditate, and reflect deeply. Also, as my friend McAuley recently pointed out, it serves as a beautiful representation of the axis mundi – the cosmic axis, the center of the world. Often symbolized by a tree, the axis mundi, as both a celestial and geographic pillar, serves as a point of connection between sky (heaven) and earth, the higher and lower realms of consciousness, and the four compass directions. As a representation of the axis mundi, and thus a rich symbol of groundedness, connection, and unity, the "Prayer Tree" seems a very appropriate image for The Wild Reed's 2018 Advent series on universal mysticism.


Thursday, December 06, 2018

Ride to Sundown


Take a ride to sundown, buy a ticket home
Take all the things I've bought you, leave all the rest alone

Black smoke from the chimneys, white smoke from the hills
Everything is moving, but we're standing still

Marble skins turn human, people fade to gray
Put your head into my hands, we'll make them go away

As you're crying softly, you won't ever be disturbed
Red on pink, the sun will sink, have you even heard?

And the colors take me down
It's no reason to be sad
And you leave without a sound
It's no reason to be glad

Celebrations fading, boats upon the waves
I put my head into my hands, trying to be brave

The carnival has packed up, the storm has left us peace
Poppies sleep undamaged as we drive into the east

– Excerpted from "It's No Reason"
by The Church (from the 1983 album Seance)


Image: "Mahad, 12/05/18" by Michael J. Bayly.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Longing and a Prayer
Now Is the Time
Something
Time By the River


Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Guidelines for the Advent of a Universal Mysticism: An Introduction



At one point in his book, The Mystic Heart, Wayne Teasdale writes the following:

My encounters with God have been rich and variegated, encompassing all the possibilities. I am certain this reflects the infinite richness of the divine expressed in the differing spiritual experiences of the world’s religions. My inner journey – what I have been given and shown – has prepared me to appreciate the importance and possibility of a universal approach to mysticism because only such an approach will yield a better understanding of spirituality. In the end, I am convinced that the religions complete one another’s understanding of ultimate reality.


I greatly resonate with these words, words that Teasdale uses to introduce eight guidelines for recognizing and facilitating the “universal approach to mysticism” he writes about. They are eight “points of agreement” that serve as guidelines for “interreligious understanding.” As such, Teasdale poetically sees them as an “intermystical bridge.”

This Advent I wish to explore and cross this bridge. I’ll do so by sharing each of the eight guidelines that comprise it – guidelines for a universal mysticism. Why engage in such an exploration during Advent? Well, along with many other people, I trust that the coming (or advent) of such a universal spirituality is something that the Divine is calling humanity to embrace and embody. My sharing of this series is one small way that I can encourage and herald the advent of this spirituality.

Before presenting the actual guidelines, however, I share in this introductory installment of The Wild Reed’s Advent 2018 series what Teasdale says about how these guidelines came to be formulated. Here’s what he writes in The Mystic Heart:

[These guidelines were] formulated by Thomas Keating and the fifteen members of his Snowmass Conference. . . . [They] provide a strong foundation for fruitful dialogue among all the faith traditions. These points of agreements have been reached in the context of spiritual practice. Each member of the Conference is a leader in a tradition of spiritual wisdom. Each is committed to an interspiritual approach. That means that they are passionately interested in the spiritual practices, insights, intuitions, and essential formulations of all the schools of spirituality.


One last thing: Each of the posts in this series will be accompanied by one or two images of what I've come to call the Prayer Tree, that special oak tree by Minnehaha Creek, close to my home in south Minneapolis. This tree and its location serve as a sacred place for me; for as its name suggests, I go there to pray, meditate, and reflect deeply. Also, as my friend McAuley recently pointed out, it serves as a beautiful representation of the axis mundi – the cosmic axis, the center of the world. Often symbolized by a tree, the axis mundi, as both a celestial and geographic pillar, serves as a point of connection between sky (heaven) and earth, the higher and lower realms of consciousness, and the four compass directions.

As a representation of the axis mundi, and thus a rich symbol of groundedness, connection, and unity, the "Prayer Tree" seems a very appropriate image for this series on universal mysticism.


NEXT: The First Guideline


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Advent: A “ChristoPagan” Perspective
Something Extraordinary . . . Again
In Search of a Global Ethic
The Ground Zero Papal Prayer Service . . . and a Reminder of the Spirituality That Transcends What All the Religions Claim to Represent
A Return to the Spirit
Beltane and the Reclaiming of Spirit
New Horizons: Reflections on A Passage to India
An Advent Prayer
Advent: The Season of Blessed Paradox
Active Waiting: A Radical Attitude Toward Life
No Other Time, No Other Place
The Centered Life as an Advent Life
Rejoice? (Advent 2012)
Advent 2011: Thoughts and Reflections (Part 1)
Advent 2011: Thoughts and Reflections (Part 2)
Advent 2011: Thoughts and Reflections (Part 3)
Advent 2011: Thoughts and Reflections (Part 4)
Thoughts on Waiting . . . and a Resolution
My Advent Prayer for the Church
Advent: Renewing Our Connection with the Sacred
Celebrating the Coming of the Sun and the Son
Christmastide Approaches

Related Off-site Links:
What Is Advent About After All? – Paul Menter (Aspen Daily News, December 6, 2017).
Advent: Hearing God in a Female Voice – Joe Kay (Sojourners, December 4, 2017).
Second Sunday of Advent Invites Us to a Meta-dream – Mary M. McGlone (National Catholic Reporter, December 9, 2017).
Happy Holidays. Yes, All of Them – Thomas L. Knapp (Stanwood Camano News, December 12, 2017).
Look to the Coming Light to Refresh your Winter-weary Soul: Winter Solstice Can Be a Spiritual Experience – Andrea Thompson McCall (Press Herald, December 12, 2017).

Images:The Prayer Tree” by Michael Bayly.


Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Happy Birthday, Mum!

In Australia today my Mum celebrates her 80th birthday.

Happy Birthday, Mum!


Right: With Mum in Port Macquarie, Australia – July 13, 2017.


I've said it many times before but it's definitely worth repeating: My brothers and I are very fortunate to have Margaret Anne Bayly (née Sparkes) as our mother. She is a beautiful, wise and strong woman who extends care, kindness, and love to everyone she encounters.

I love you, Mum, and can’t thank you enough for who you are and for all you continue to be and give to me, my brothers, our family, and so many others whose lives are fortunate enough to be touched by yours!



Above: The Bayly family – Sunday, August 6, 2017. This photo was taken at the 80th birthday party for my Dad that I organized when I was last back in Australia, July-August of 2017. For more images of this very special celebration, click here.


In celebrating Mum's's birthday at The Wild Reed in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017 I shared quite a number of photos from the Bayly family archives. In fact, it was a bit of a chore to find new ones for this post! But rest assured, I found a few. Enjoy!



Above: Mum (center) with her friends Elaine (left) and Fay in the late-1950s.



Above: Mum and Dad on their wedding day in Gunnedah, November 7, 1959.



Above: The Bayly family, photographed in the mid-1970s. From left: Me, Dad, Mum, my younger brother Tim, and my older brother Chris.

From the decorations in the background I can tell that this photo was taken around Christmas. What year exactly, I can't say. I do know it was taken at the home of my Mum's younger sister Ruth, her husband Rex, and their two children – my cousins Emily and Greg. At that time they lived on a small farm just outside of Gunnedah.



Above: Mum on Christmas Day, 1984.



Above: Mum with (from left) her mother-in-law, Belle Smith (1919-2005), and her mother, Olive Sparkes (1906-1997). This photo was taken at the wedding of my younger brother Tim and his wife Ros in 1990.



Above: Mum and I with my paternal grandparents, Bill and Belle Smith – Christmas Day, 1991.



Above: Mum, Dad, and I with Mum's older sister, Fay, and my niece, Layne – December 30, 2009.



Above: With Mum and Dad and their Port Macquarie friends Bob and Daphne – Friday, August 18, 2017.



Above: A lovely shot of Dad and Mum in Port Macquarie – August 10, 2017.


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Thanks, Mum!
Happy Birthday, Mum (2017)
Happy Birthday, Mum (2015)
Happy Birthday, Mum (2014)
Happy Birthday, Mum (2013)
Happy Birthday, Mum (2011)
Happy Birthday, Mum (2010)
Happy Birthday, Mum (2009)
Congratulations, Mum and Dad!
Catholic Rainbow (Australian) Parents


Saturday, December 01, 2018

December's Snowy Start


I went for a walk this afternoon along Minnehaha Creek, close to my home in south Minneapolis. With the afternoon's freshly-fallen snow, it was quite beautiful out.






And, of course, while out and about this afternoon, I paid a visit to the Prayer Tree (above and below).




About today's "winter storm" Andrew Krueger of MPR News writes:

December is getting off to a snowy start across much of southern Minnesota on Saturday as a winter storm moves across the region.

Winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories remain in effect for the southern third of the state through Sunday morning.

The National Weather Service is forecasting total snowfall of 5 to 10 inches in the warning area, which includes Red Wing, Rochester, Albert Lea, Owatonna, Mankato, Fairmont and Worthington.

To the north, snowfall of 2 to 6 inches is expected for the Twin Cities, New Ulm and Redwood Falls. In the Twin Cities metro area, MPR meteorologist Ron Trenda reported, "the far southern part of the metro could end up with 4 to 6 inches of snow, while the far north metro (northern Anoka County) only sees an inch or two."

The Minnesota Department of Transportation reports slow-going on Twin Cities freeways, with authorities responding to many crashes and spinouts. As of 4 p.m., jackknifed semis were reported along U.S. Highway 52 near Zumbrota, and along Interstate 90 near Adrian.


Meanwhile, along Minnehaha Creek, it's an altogether more peaceful and uneventful scene. . . .






See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
First Snowfall
A Snowy December – with an Aussie Connection
Winter Storm (2012)
Winter Storm (2017)
The Prayer Tree

Images: Michael J. Bayly.


Friday, November 30, 2018

Autumnal (and Rather Pagan) Thoughts on the Making of “All Things New”



In his latest book, On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity and Getting Old, author and educator Parker Palmer writes at one point of the "endless interplay of darkness and light, falling and rising" that the seasons of the natural world, autumn in particular, instruct us in.

Parker's musings remind me of Thomas Moore's contention that the "circling of nature, inner and outer, may be the best way to find our substance."

Of course, such looking toward and into nature for insight, wisdom, and truth reflects a very pagan attitude toward and response to life, creation, and the human condition. To be clear: like other spiritual paths, the pagan path seeks, discerns, and responds to the Divine Presence. What is perhaps unique about paganism, however, is that it is a spiritual path that recognizes the Divine Presence in all things, though particularly in the natural world – the elements, the cycle of the seasons, and the inherent diversity of life. Paganism recognizes and celebrates that there is an elemental power and beauty in all of these things, a grounding power and beauty that paradoxically transcends religious doctrine and dogma.

I was reminded of all this as I read that part of Parker's book which I share below. This excerpt is accompanied by images of autumnal beauty that I captured over the last two months or so around Minnehaha Creek, close to my home in south Minneapolis.

_________________________________


I’m a professional melancholic, and for years my delight in the autumn color show quickly morphed into sadness as I watched the beauty die. Focused on the browning of summer’s green growth, I allowed the prospect of death to eclipse all that’s life-giving about the fall and its sensuous delights.

Then I began to understand a simple fact: all the “falling” that’s going on out there is full of promise. Seeds are being planted and leaves are being composted as earth prepares for yet another uprising of green.




Today, as I weather the late autumn of my own life, I find nature a trustworthy guide. It’s easy to fixate on everything that goes to the ground as time goes by: the disintegration of a relationship, the disappearance of good work well done, the diminishment of a sense of purpose and meaning. But as I’ve come to understand that life “composts” and “seeds” us as autumn does the earth, I’ve seen how possibility gets planted in us even in the hardest of times.

Looking back, I see how the job I lost pushed me to find work that was mine to do, how the “Road Closed” sign turned me toward terrain that I’m glad I traveled, how losses that felt irredeemable forced me to find new sources of meaning. In each of these experiences, it felt as though something was dying, and so it was. Yet deep down, amid all the falling, the seeds of new life were always being silently and lavishly sown.




. . . Perhaps death possesses a grace that we who fear dying, who find it ugly and even obscene, cannot see. How shall we understand nature’s testimony that dying itself – as devastating as we know it can be – contains the hope of a certain beauty?

The closest I’ve ever come to answering that question begins with these words from Thomas Merton, “There is in all visible things . . . a hidden wholeness.” [Thomas Merton, “Hagia Sophia,” in A Thomas Merton Reader, ed. Thomas P. McDonnell (Doubleday: 1989), 506.]

In the visible world of nature, a great truth is concealed in plain sight. Diminishment and beauty, darkness and light, death and life are not opposites: they are held together in the paradox of the “hidden wholeness.” In a paradox, opposites do not negate each other – they co-habit and co-create in mysterious unity at the heart of reality. Deeper still, they need each other for health, just as our well-being depends on breathing in and breathing out.




. . . When I give myself over to organic reality – to the endless interplay of darkness and light, falling and rising – the life I am given is as real and colorful, fruitful and whole as this graced and graceful world and the seasonal cycles that make it so. Though I still grieve as beauty goes to ground, autumn reminds me to celebrate the primal power that is forever making all things new in me, in us, and in the natural world.

– Parker Palmer
Excerpted from On the Brink of Everything:
Grace, Gravity and Getting Old

pp. 165-167, 168


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Thomas Moore on the Circling of Nature as the Best Way to Find Our Substance
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond
O Sacred Season of Autumn
"Thou Hast Thy Music Too"
Autumn Beauty
Autumn Leaves
Autumn Hues
Autumn Dance
The Prayer Tree Aflame
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond (2016)

Images: Michael J. Bayly.