Monday, May 31, 2010

Out and About - May 2010

Above, right, and below: The 36th annual In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre’s MayDay Parade in South Minneapolis - Sunday, May 2, 2010.

This year's parade theme was “Uproar!: A Call to Be Fully Present to the Uncertainties of These Shifting Times.” As always, it was an incredibly creative, inspiring, and, yes, spiritual experience.

For more images and commentary, click here and here.

Above: On Friday, May 7, my friend Jairo (center) invited me to join him and friends Chuck and John to see Bernadette Peters in concert at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis. Before the concert, Jairo and John prepared a wonderful dinner for us all.

I must admit that while I can certainly appreciate the type of music that Broadway legend Bernadette Peters is famous for, it's not really my cup of tea. I guess I'm not a "show tunes" kind of gay man! Still, I'm very grateful for Jairo's thoughtfulness and generosity in inviting me to be his guest at this concert.

Above: A view of downtown Minneapolis in the early hours of Saturday, May 8, 2010.

For another image, click here.

Above: My young friend Joey (front row center, and sporting one of my ties!) is the son of my good friend Kathleen. On the evening of Monday, May 10, he made his Confirmation at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. In the picture above, he stands with the other young people from his parish who were also confirmed.

Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché (back row center) presided at the Mass - one which saw hundreds of young people from parishes throughout the St. Paul/Minneapolis Archdiocese make their Confirmation.

Above: Joey's mum and my dear friend Kathleen with our mutual friend Greg, who was Joey's Confirmation sponsor - May 10, 2010.

Above: Friends Jackie, Phil, and John - Saturday, May 22, 2010.

Left: With Sonja, one of two dogs that live with my good friend Phil and his family.

Right: Phil and Sonja.

Above: Phil and his parents Noelle and John with Quinn and Sonja - Saturday, May 22, 2009.

Sonja was a very old dog, and, in recent months, not at all in the best of health. She died on Thursday, May 27, and I felt honored to be invited by Phil and his parents to be present at her passing. She had been part of the family for fourteen years, and she'll be greatly missed. As Noelle later shared with me: "Pets teach us unconditional love, life and death. With Sonja's passing a page of our life has turned. We will not forget her."

Above: A beautiful spring bloom - May 27, 2010.

For more spring images, see here and here.

Above: Members of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's Work Study Group on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity meeting at my home on Sunday, September 23, 2010.

I serve as the facilitator of this particular work/study group - one of ten groups regularly meeting in the local church in preparation for the Coalition's 2010 Synod of the Baptized: "Claiming Our Place at the Table," scheduled for September 18.

For my most recent report on the preparations for the Synod, click here.

Quote of the Day

. . . Beneath the beauty of the lilies lies the ugliness of war. For the act of memorializing to be truly honorable, that harsh reality must be kept central. The human longing for an end to war must be revivified generation in and generation out - not just as a dream, but as a mandate. The waste, futility, and cruelty of war must focus our perceptions of it.

Just because we necessarily make something noble of war, by thinking gratefully of those who served to the point of death, does not remove the indictment of what killed them. War is a crime. Among its victims are its heroes. Yet in the modern era, they have been vastly outnumbered by men, women, and children for whom war was only catastrophic, in no way valorous. Memorial Day belongs to that legion of the dead also.

- James Carroll
"Memorial Day: Remembering the Heroes, Victims"
The Boston Globe
May 31, 2010

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Let's Also Honor the "Expendables"
Remembering Wilfred Owen
Commemorating My Grandfather, Aub Bayly, and the Loss of AHS Centaur

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Spring Blooms

I took these photographs last Thursday, May 27 - a particularly glorious spring day here in the Twin Cities. Most of them are of the flowers at the Lyndale Park Peace Garden in Minneapolis, while a few are from the garden of my friends Ken and Carol. Enjoy!

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In Minnesota, An Early Spring
Spring's Return
Spring Garden (2009)
"Jubilation is My Name": Spring in Minnesota (2008)
Spring in Minnesota (2007)
Full Bloom (2006)
In the Footsteps of Spring

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Prayer of the Week

To Enhance Our Delight

By W. L. Wallace

O God who has created us as sexual beings,
help us to use our sensuousness responsibly,
that rejoicing in our bodies and our imagination
we may use them to nurture our love,
to enhance our delight
and to increase our awareness
of oneness with all things.

Taken from Courage To Love: Liturgies for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community (compiled by Geoffrey Duncan, Pilgrim Press, 2002).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
And Love is Lord of All
Lover of Us All
Just Now and Then
One Fearless Kiss
It Happens All the Time in Heaven

Nobody But You

Here's another great song by the beautiful and talented Wendy Matthews. (It's actually by the short-lived Australian band Absent Friends, with Wendy on vocals.) Notes Wikipedia:

[The Absent Friends'] single "I Don’t Want To Be With Nobody But You" was a significant commercial success. It was a cover of the Eddie Floyd classic. The cover to the single credited the song to Absent Friends featuring Wendy Matthews. Also guesting on the track was vocalist Peter Blakeley (backing vocals). The song peaked at Number 4 on the Australian charts during July 1990, and later won the ARIA Award for ‘Best Single’ for 1991.

As often is the case when I choose songs to share on The Wild Reed, the lyrics of this one kinda reflect things I'm currently going through in my life. I guess that's to be expected.

Anyway, regardless of its relevance to your life or mine, I think you'll find "I Don't Want to Be With Nobody But You" a great song that's beautifully delivered by Wendy Matthews. Enjoy!

. . . Man, I love you, so put an end to your fantasy,
or you just might, you just might blow it all.
Get yourself together and, baby,
when you do, you're going to see
I'll be true to you.

Coz I don't want to be with nobody but you.
No, no, I don't want to be with no one but you.
I want to be wrapped up in the arms of my loving man.
(Come on and rock me)
Rock me in your arms like I know you can.

"I Don't Want To Be With Nobody But You" is available on the following albums: Stepping Stones: The Best of Wendy Matthews (1999) and The Essential Wendy Matthews (2007).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Wendy Matthews
Beautiful View

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Malawi Gay Couple Released from Prison

Earlier today my friend Mark contacted me with the good news that Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza have been released from prison in Malawi. You may recall that the couple had been recently sentenced to 14 years in prison for being gay.

Following is how Raphael Tenthani of the Associated Press is reporting this breaking story. As you’ll see, although it’s good news for Tiwonge and Steven, the situation for gays and lesbians throughout Africa remains deeply troubling.


Malawi Gay Couple Sentenced
to 14 Years in Prison Pardoned

By Raphael Tenthani

Associated Press
May 29, 2010

Malawi's president on Saturday pardoned and ordered the release of a gay couple sentenced to 14 years in prison, but said that homosexuality remains illegal in this conservative southern African nation.

Activists were searching for a safe house for the couple, fearing they could be attacked upon release.

Malawi has faced international condemnation for the conviction and harsh sentencing of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza. President Bingu wa Mutharika (right) announced the pardon, saying it was on "humanitarian grounds only," during a press conference with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Lilongwe, the capital.

Earlier in the week, the top U.N. AIDS official and the head of an international donor organization met Mutharika in Malawi and expressed concern that criminalizing homosexuality would keep a vulnerable group from seeking HIV/AIDS counseling and treatment.

Joseph Amon of Human Rights Watch said the president was no doubt responding to the international outcry over the case.

"I hope that other leaders of African countries with anti-gay laws see that this is just not acceptable in the international community," Amon told The Associated Press by telephone from New York.

Malawi is among 37 African countries with anti-gay laws.

In Senegal police have rounded up men suspected of being homosexual and beaten them, and a mob last year pulled the corpse of a gay man from his grave, spat on it and dumped it at the home of his elderly parents.

In Zimbabwe this month, two employees of a gay organization spent six days in jail on allegations of possessing indecent material and displaying a placard seen as insulting to President Robert Mugabe, an outspoken critic of homosexuality.

In Uganda, a proposed law would impose the death penalty for some gays.

Even in South Africa, the only country that recognizes gay rights, lesbians have been gang-raped.

In Malawi, a judge convicted and sentenced Chimbalanga and Monjeza earlier this month on charges of unnatural acts and gross indecency, both colonial-era laws. They were arrested in December, a day after they celebrated their engagement.

Crowds of Malawians had heckled the two during court hearings, with some saying after they were sentenced to 14 years at hard labor — the harshest possible sentence — that they should be imprisoned longer.

Undule Mwakasungure, a gay rights activist in Malawi, told The AP Saturday he was concerned about the couple's safety, and working with other activists to find a safe house for them and possible arrange for them to leave the country at least temporarily.

"There is homophobic sentiment. I think they might be harmed," Mwakasungure said.

Edi Phiri, who fled Malawi for Britain five years ago after being beaten because he was gay, said the two might need to seek asylum outside of Malawi.

"They will be out of prison, but what will happen next?" Phiri said. "The community will see them as outcasts. I don't think they will be safe in Malawi."

A cousin of Chimbalanga, Maxwell Manda, told The AP earlier in the week that Chimbalanga wanted to leave Malawi upon his release.

Mwakasungure and Phiri said the pardon was welcome and could fuel campaigns to overturn Malawi's anti-gay legislation and try to change attitudes.

"The public needs to appreciate that the world is changing," Mwakasungure said. "It won't be easy. But I think that as time goes, people will start to appreciate. We're not talking about changing the law today or tomorrow. But we have to start the process."

Mutharika's comments Saturday underlined the challenge activists face.

"These boys committed a crime against our culture, against our religion, and against our laws," Mutharika said. "However, as head of state, I hereby pardon them and therefore order their immediate release without any conditions."

But he added, "We don't condone marriages of this nature. It's unheard of in Malawi and it's illegal."

Ban praised Mutharika's decision but said, "It is unfortunate that laws criminalize people based on sexuality. Laws that criminalize sexuality should be repealed."

While the order was immediate, a prison spokesman told The AP they had not received notification to release the two men by Saturday afternoon.

Mwakasungure, the activist, said he hoped the release would be delayed until Monday or Tuesday, to give him time to prepare a safe house.

To read the White House's statement on the pardoning of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Prayer for International Day Against Homophobia
Update on Tiwonge and Steven
The Blood-Soaked Thread
To Be Gay in Iraq
The Tragedy of Homophobia
Coming Out in Africa and the Middle East
Homosexual Relations Decriminalized in India
Liberated to Be Together

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hollywood's Bad "Habitual Practice"

The casting of white actor Jake Gyllenhaul
as the "Prince of Persia" has some people crying foul.

You know, I have to admit that I’ve never been particularly convinced of the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin simply because the supposed image of Jesus looks about as Jewish as I do. Indeed, it seems to reflect the artistic (and decidedly non-Semitic looking) depictions of Christ from much later times.

I was reminded of this when I read of the controversy surrounding the recently released film The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaul (left), an American actor who, despite his good looks, doesn’t look remotely Persian. As a result, I find myself agreeing with blogger and independent filmmaker Jehanzeb Dar, who says that the casting of Gyllenhall is “not only insulting to Persians, [but] also insulting to white people. It’s saying white people can't enjoy movies unless the protagonist is white.”

Following it that part of an Associated Press article that offers economic and historical perspectives on the “whitewashing” of both The Prince of Persia and another recent film, The Last Airbender.

2010 is a time of huge stakes in the movie business — when only a small fraction of the films that are released make the vast majority of the industry's profits, said economics professor Arthur De Vany, author of Hollywood Economics: How Extreme Uncertainty Shapes the Film Industry.

Because of the financial risk, studios try to control anything that goes into a movie before its release in an effort to maximize box office receipts — from the storyline to the cast to the marketing, De Vany explained.

“They’re trying to control the initial conditions of a chaotic process,” he said. “There’s only so much room at the top.”

During the era of segregation in this country, Hollywood routinely considered race when making and releasing a film. For example, actress Lena Horne, who died May 9 at 92, saw her parts in movies cut out when those films were shown in the South.

Over time, “it’s what has become habitual practice," said Chon Noriega, professor of cinema and media studies at UCLA. “I think it’s the default setting and it takes a conscious choice to change,” he said.

And here’s Sassy Qarla's take on the matter:

It surely isn't Jake Gyllenhaal's chiselled physique in the big budget film adaptation of a popular video game that's garnered disapproval.

You betcha! One of the season's most expensive film, Prince of Persia, has sparked quite an outrage in its offensive choice of casting.

The popular video game franchise based in ethnic parts, specifically ancient Iran, comprises characters with Middle Eastern features and darker skin. The film version meanwhile, chooses to cast White actors with stereotypical depictions from the region as being terrorists or religious zealots.

One who's evidently insulted with the increasing misconceptions of Hollywood, is independent filmmaker and blogger Jehanzeb Dar, 26, who's a player and loyal follower of the video game.

When Disney studios made an announcement regarding plans to create a live-action adaptation of Prince of Persia, Dar was quite hoping it would be a 'serious story' that would thwart stereotypes and false ideologies. But what came was a slap-in-the-face for the filmmaker, when none of the film's principal cast were of Iranian, Middle Eastern or Muslim descent. Especially the one tasked with filling in the shoes of hero Dastan, none other than Brokeback Mountain's Jake Gyllenhaal.

"It's insulting that people of color - especially Middle Easteners or South Asians- are not allowed to portray ourselves in these roles. That's a big problem a lot of people in the community are having with this film," remarks Dar.

It's not the first time Hollywood has sort of gotten away with it. There was John Wayne who portrayed legend Genghis Khan in The Conqueror, comedian Peter Sellers as the bumbling Indian in The Party, and not to forget Mickey Rooney's Mr. Yunioshi character from Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Besides Gyllenhaal and British actress Gemma Aterton's portrayal of Iranian characters in the dagger-wielding action Prince of Persia, we have another big budget flick, The Last Airbender.

Producers of the film are on the brink of being boycotted by fans after learning that white actors are cast in three primary roles, which loyal followers of the Nickelodeon animated version insist are Asian and Native American.

Racial discrimination needs to be eliminated in all areas of our daily living. So wake up and get real, Hollywood!

For a round-up of reviews of The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
What Muslims Want
Irene Khan: Shaking Things Up Down Under
Tariq Ali Discusses Rudyard Kipling

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Quote of the Day

It seems to me the spiritual quest is not about disciplining the body and it's natural functions. It's about maturing emotionally. That means transcending one's fears and all the emotions associated with fear. Only then, when we start to work through our fears are we able to experience the fruits of love. First peace, then love, then joy.

- Colleen Kochivar-Baker
"A Short Note About Transformation . . ."
Enlightened Catholicism
May 24, 2010

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Real Holiness
Human Sex: Weird and Silly, Messy and Sublime

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Spirit of Pentecost is Very Much Present and Active in the Church of Minneapolis/St. Paul

Above: “The Banquet” by Ansgar Holmberg,
which serves as the official logo for the Minneapolis/St. Paul-based
Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's 2010 Synod of the Baptized,

"Claiming Our Place at the Table."

I’ve discovered that the older I get the more I appreciate Pentecost and what it signifies, i.e., our recognition of the gift of God’s spirit of transformation within and among us. It’s a recognition that, time and again, births community, births “the church.”

It’s a rebel Spirit, to be sure, as it blows where it will. Not surprisingly, it’s also a Spirit that confounds any rigid certainties formed when – individually or communally – we’re unmindful of its presence across the spectrum of creation and thus within all manner of lives and relationships. It’s also a Spirit that, as we open ourselves to it, turns upside down attitudes, perspectives, understandings, and, yes, teachings that we once may have cherished as unchangeable. It is, in short, a Spirit that guides, liberates, and transforms. What a wondrous and beautiful gift our loving God has bestowed upon us!

Growing up in Australia, Pentecost always took place just as winter was beginning. Here in the northern hemisphere, however, it is celebrated just at the time when nature is springing forth with new life and is, quite literally, being transformed before our eyes. It’s a wonderful reminder of how the Spirit calls us to flourish; to grow and blossom (time and time again) into our very best selves by embodying and radiating God’s loving presence and action in our lives, relationships, and communities – including, of course, our church community.

One of the great challenges, however, in being part of the Roman Catholic church community is that we have to deal with men in positions of clerical leadership who are unmindful and/or unresponsive to this blossoming of God’s loving presence and action within and through certain lives, relationships, and communities. This is a great tragedy as, at a very fundamental level, it signifies a betrayal of the church’s mission* – a betrayal that for many Catholics causes much hurt, anger, and pain.

Addressing a Church Culture at Odds with the Gospel Message

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m part of the leadership of the Twin Cities-based Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR). Our whole existence owes itself to the fact that many in the local church of Minneapolis/St. Paul are painfully (and often frustratingly and angrily) aware of numerous disconnects between current church attitudes and practices (all of which contribute to a certain culture of the church) and the gospel message of love proclaimed and lived by Jesus.

CCCR is a coalition of lay Catholic individuals and organizations that is currently working independently of the clerical leadership of the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis. (We hope one day that we can work together, but at this time the chancery office is not open to being in conversation with us.) CCCR formed in April of last year. It was at this time that we announced plans to host a “Synod of the Baptized” in 2010.

Entitled “Claiming Our Place at the Table,” this synod will be the first in a series that will take place over the next several years. It’s scheduled to take place on Saturday, September 18, 2010, at the Ramada Plaza Minneapolis Hotel. We’re anticipating 500 people to be in attendance. The goal of Synod 2010 is to inspire and prepare local Catholics to take action for church reform. Basically, we want to energize Catholics to actively engage in reform work around attitudes, structures, and practices in the church that fail to manifest the love that Jesus lived and taught.

Identifying and Responding to Areas of Disconnect

Within the local church of Minneapolis/St. Paul, this reform work is already well underway. For the past year-and-a-half, small groups of Catholics have been gathering in “work/study groups” and focusing on various areas of church practice that are experienced by many as disconnected from the gospel message of love (see here, here, here, and here). These areas of practice include Bishop Selection, Church Authority and Governance, Church as a Community of Equals, Mandatory Celibacy/Clericalism, Catholic/Christian Identity, Emerging Church, Faith Formation of Children and Youth, Catholic Spirituality, and Social Justice.

Since last May, I’ve been facilitating a work/study group on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (see
here and here). There are seven of us in the group, and we’ve been focusing on the research findings and insights concerning Catholic theological anthropology and ethics contained in Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler’s scholarly tome, The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology.

Above: Members of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform’s
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Work/Study Group,
meeting at my home in St. Paul on the evening of Pentecost Sunday 2010.
From left: Mary Beth, Ed, Joe, Henry, Phyllis, and Bob.

At CCCR’s 2010 Synod, recommended practices and actions for reform will be presented and discussed in numerous break-out sessions. These sessions will be facilitated by members of the various work/study groups who have worked hard to develop knowledge and expertise around the particular issue they’ve been focusing on, and we’re definitely looking forward to sharing our expertise and recommendations on September 18.

I should note that although Synod 2010 will be a culmination of the activities of the various work/study groups, it will also serve as a launch pad for future ongoing action. A special Action Coordinating Team (ACT) will be commissioned at the Synod and all those present will have the opportunity to be part of the action as together we take the Synod’s recommendations for reform out to our families, parishes, and communities within the local church. As you can see, we’re definitely in this for the long haul. And we trust that it is the Spirit – that wondrously transforming Spirit of Pentecost – that is leading us to be the church that Jesus envisioned: a community that welcomes and nurtures all.

Practices and Actions to Transform the Culture of the Church

I should also say a little about what CCCR is saying about this idea of best “practices” and actions” for church reform – practices and actions that each work/study group is in the process of formulating and will present in September at the Synod of the Baptized.

First, the one thing that the different actions and practices being recommended have in common is that they all aim to impact the culture of the local church in ways that facilitate collegiality, transparency, inclusiveness, respect, dialogue, and spiritual nurturance. Such qualities, we believe, will help the church better live out its mission.

Second, the CCCR board of directors has defined practices as initiatives that individuals can begin to act upon right away when they leave the Synod on September 18. Actions, on the other hand, are initiatives that the work/study groups are suggesting that CCCR and its Action Coordinating Team (ACT) undertake. Action Teams will be established to carry out these suggestions, and folks at the Synod will be given the opportunity to sign up to work on them.

The 3-5 practices and actions that each work/study group will recommend at the Synod represent their best thinking on the various issues that they’ve been studying and discussing for the past year. However, these recommendations should not be seen as done deals requiring simply a rubber stamp of approval from those attending the Synod. Rather, the recommendations of the work/study groups can be best thought of as like a starter kit, something to prime the pump of the Synod attendees’ thinking. They can, and no doubt will, be further clarified and developed by those attending the Synod. And, of course, additional recommendations may well be discussed and formulated.

I think you’d agree that, given all that I’ve described, the Spirit of Pentecost is definitely very much present and active in the church of Minneapolis/St. Paul.

* Following is how CCCR understands the mission of the church.

As a community of Jesus’ followers, we are the Church. Empowered by the
Christ Spirit, it is our mission to continue his mission of announcing the
arrival of the reign of God by recognizing and embodying God's transforming love.

To accomplish our mission we:

• Proclaim the Gospel in action and words.

• Respect the equality of all the baptized and their right of full participation in the church, according to their Spirit given gifts.

• Celebrate, in sacrament, especially in Baptism and the Eucharist, Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and our call to follow him.

• Serve others, especially the poor and marginalized, with a humble and generous heart.

• Seek, together with all people of good will, peace through justice.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Catholic Coalition for Church Reform
Many Voices, One Church
“Something Joyous and Exciting”
Preparing to Claim Our Place at the Table
CCCR Responds to Censure by Chancery
An Exciting Endeavor
A New Phase

Recommended Off-site Link:
The Catholic Coalition for Church Reform

Monday, May 24, 2010

Prayer of the Week

For this week’s installment of The Wild Reed’s “Prayer of the Week” series, I share Roman Catholic Womanpriest Brigid Mary Meehan's "A Pentecost Prayer."


Come, Holy Spirit, come,
light the flame of Pentecost fire
within us and among us as we work
for justice, equality, compassion and peace.

Come, Holy Spirit, come,
embrace us in the Heart of Love
that we might embody the Wisdom of Christ-Sophia
in all our relationships.

Come, Holy Spirit, come,
empower us with all that we need to be your Presence
in situations that are beyond our strength to endure.

Come, Holy Spirit, come,
help us to reverence earth as holy ground,
a wondrous cathedral,
where we discover Your divine footprints everywhere.

Come, Holy Spirit, come,
speak to our hearts on this Pentecost day.
Heal us. Energize us. Fill us with your gifts
so that we may serve others generously and lovingly.

May we, the Body of Christ,
live vibrantly as Christ-Presence
in our church and world.


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In the Vigor of the Spirit
Strange Tongues
The Spirit and the Faithful
Truth About "Spirit of Vatican II" Finally Revealed!
Thoughts on Ordination, Intellectual Dishonesty, and the Spirit of Which the Prophet Joel Speaks
On Gay Issues, ELCA Elects to Embody a Living, Growing Faith

Recommended Off-site Links:
Bridget Mary's Blog
Roman Catholic Womenpriests

Image: "Holy Spirit Coming" by He Qi.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Strange Tongues

By Marjorie Dobson

I cannot read music.
Those lines and dots
and strangely curving symbols
are merely patterns
filling up a page.

I cannot play music.
Black and white keyboards,
stringed instruments
and tubes of wood and brass,
are dead in my hands,
silent to my lips.

I cannot sing music -
not with any confidence.
My lips frame words.
My voice sounds tuneless
to my own ears
and I am wary
of letting others hear
my faltering efforts.

Music is a foreign language to me
and I am as incompetent in that
as I am in other tongues.

Yet music moves my soul
and I listen and am carried
by its haunting power
into a world, alive and beautiful,
and the music speaks
in a voice all its own.

The Spirit's language
is a foreign tongue,
not understood.
And yet it speaks,
controls and liberates
and moves
into the deepest areas of my soul
to make a moving music
of its own.

(From Eternal Springs: An Anthology of Hope, compiled by Geoffrey Duncan, Canterbury Press, 2006)

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In the Vigor of the Spirit
The Spirit and the Faithful

Image: David Vance.

In the Vigor of the Spirit

The Spirit has been poured forth and works wonders wherever human hearts are open to its promptings. The earth is renewed each time rivalries are resolved, distinctions are recognized as merely expression of diversity, peace is restored, comfort and solace are offered, and forgiveness is granted. We are immersed in the vigor of the spirit of God; all we have to do is open ourselves to it and the reign of God will be born in our midst.

- Dianne Bergant

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Spirit and the Faithful
Truth About "Spirit of Vatican II" Finally Revealed!
Thoughts on Ordination, Intellectual Dishonesty, and the Spirit of Which the Prophet Joel Speaks
On Gay Issues, ELCA Elects to Embody a Living, Growing Faith

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The "Wild Gaiety" of Jesus' Moral Teaching

Jesus’ morality has a brash, sidewise indifference to conventional ideas of goodness. His pet style blends the epigrammatic with the enigmatic. When he makes that complaint about the prophet having no honor in his own home town, or says exasperatedly that there is no point in lighting a candle unless you intend to put it in a candlestick, his voice carries a disdain for the props of piety that still feels startling. And so with the tale of the boy who wastes his inheritance but gets a feast from his father, while his dutiful brother doesn’t; or the one about the weeping whore who is worthier than her good, prim onlookers; or about the passionate Mary who is better than her hardworking sister Martha. There is a wild gaiety about Jesus’ moral teachings that still leaps off the page. He is informal in a new way, too, that remains unusual among prophets. [Diarmaid] MacCulloch [in his “new, immensely ambitious and absorbing history,” Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years] points out that [Jesus] continually addresses God as “Abba,” Father, or even Dad, and that the expression translated in the King James Version as a solemn “Verily I say unto you” is actually a quirky Aramaic throat-clearer, like Dr. Johnson’s “Depend upon it, Sir.”

- Adam Gopnik
What Did Jesus Do? Reading and Unreading the Gospels
The New Yorker
May 24, 2010

Image: "Behold the Joy of Jesus" by Lindena Robb (from the Jesus Laughing Exhibition).

Photo of the Day

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Beautiful View

What a beautiful view you are,
eyes deep ocean blue.
What a radiant sun you are,
lighting everything I see.

So don't be scared,
the silence is a wall between us.
Can't you see that all I want is you?

For this evening’s “music night” at The Wild Reed, I share a video of acclaimed Australian singer Wendy Matthews performing the song "Beautiful View" at The Basement in Sydney, Australia.

In 2001, this particular song served as the title track of Wendy's seventh studio album. Since then, she's released two other albums, Café Naturale (2004) and She (2008). For her complete discography, click here.

Wendy Matthews has a reputation as an artist par excellence with a sublime, expressive voice that never fails to move those who hear it.

Both acoustically and physically, Wendy Matthews moves with an enviable minimalism. Her music is an unhurried journey of clean melodies, infectious energy and simple grace.

. . . Wendy has an immense talent and capacity to capture and define a diverse range of styles in her music. She takes songs from every genre and makes them her own, from jazz to blues, from rock to gospel, from soul to outright infectious pop and then, of course, there are the beautiful ballads.

"Beautiful View" just happens to be one of those beautiful ballads. Enjoy!

. . . What incredible skies they are,
wrapped 'round us tonight.
You're all the sleeping stars
and I'm the satellites.

Let all those fears
rest in your imagination.
I just want to lie here in our constellation.

What a beautiful view you are.
Don't change.

Let all the dark clouds
rain beneath your mind's horizon.
Can't you see there's nothing but skies of blue
and they're you?
Don't change.

What a beautiful view you are.
Don't change.

Wendy is adept at reaching both frenetic youth and mature audiences alike. If older ears are captured by her soul and unfazed class, a more cynical youth is convinced by her disarming ease of delivery, wooed by a voice of stunning emotive capacity yet void of sentimentality.

This outstanding capability has ensured the strength of her following – not only with the public but also the music industry. To date Wendy has won seven ARIAS – the all time record.

To view Australian country singer Adam Harvey's recent duet with Wendy Matthews on the song "Easy," click here.

For the best introduction to Wendy's music, I recommend either the 1999 compilation album, Stepping Stones: The Best of Wendy Matthews, or the 2007 compilation album, The Essential Wendy Matthews.

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Wendy Matthews

Musical artists previously featured at The Wild Reed:
Elaine Page and Barbara Dickson, Jane Clifton, Enigma, Yvonne Elliman, Lenny Kravitz, Marty Rhone, Don Henley, Propeller Heads and Shirley Bassey, Stephen Gately, Nat King Cole, Enrique Iglesias, Helen Reddy, Australian Crawl, PJ and Duncan, Cass Elliot, The Church, Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield, Wall of Voodoo, Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy, Pink Floyd, Kate Ceberano, Judith Durham, Wendy Matthews, Buffy Sainte-Marie, 1927, Mavis Staples, Maxwell, Joan Baez, Dave Stewart & Friends, Tee Set, Darren Hayes, Suede, Wet, Wet, Wet, Engelbert Humperdinck, The Cruel Sea, Shirley Bassey, Loretta Lynn & Jack White, Maria Callas, Foo Fighters, Rosanne Cash, Jenny Morris, Scissor Sisters, Kate Bush, Rufus Wainwright, and Dusty Springfield.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Update on Tiwonge and Steven

I love Steven so much. If people or the world cannot give me the chance and freedom to continue living with him as my lover, then I am better off to die here in prison. Freedom without him is useless and meaningless.

– Tiwonge Chimbalanga,
as quoted in the CNN story
Malawi Gay Couple Jailed for Indecency, Unnatural Acts"
May 20, 2010

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Prayer for International Day Against Homophobia
Liberated to Be Together
Sergius and Bacchus: Martyrs, Saints, Lovers

Recommended Off-site Links:
Gay Couple Sentenced to Maximum 14 Years in Malawi - Raphael Tenthani (
Associated Press, May 20, 2010).
Malawi Gay Couple Get Maximum Sentence of 14 Years - BBC World News (May 20, 2010).
Malawi Court Convicts Gay Couple - BBC World News (May 18, 2010).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Revisiting Dirk Bogarde

I was going through some old computer files last night and came across an excerpt that I had found and saved from the highly informative and comprehensive website I'll share that excerpt in a moment, but first a bit of background.

I wrote about the great British actor and author Dirk Bogarde (1921-1999) in a three-part Wild Reed series in 2006. I was in Australia at the time, and reading John Coldstream's hefty biography of Bogarde. It's a very illuminating and entertaining book, and one that I definitely recommend - along with a more recent publication, Dirk Bogarde: Rank Outsider by Sheridan Morley.

Here's what Morley says about Bogarde's perspective on his own sexuality - a stance that intrigues me and, truth be told, saddens me.

[Dirk's] very first live BBC Television drama [was] a production of Rope. . . . He played a student who commits a murder for fun. It was based on the famous American case of Leopold and Loeb, two college boys involved in a homosexual affair.

From the very beginning of his career this raised questions about Dirk's own sexuality, as, later, did his work in such movies as Victim, The Servant, and Death in Venice. . . . At the time of Death in Venice (1971) one or two critics, notably American, felt that this had to be the triumph of a gay actor. While Dirk never sued, he carefully denied the suggestion whenever possible.

. . . [He once said:] "No one is ever allowed to come too close and the limit is always fixed by myself. So far and no further."

Years later he told the interviewer Russell Harty, "I'm still in the shell, and you're not going to crack it, ducky." All through his career he had chosen to be particularly circumspect about his private life. What today seems an extraordinary achievement, greater even than stardom over the next forty years, must surely be his absolute privacy in this area, all the more remarkable given that he has published seven volumes of autobiography. In those, he has written at length about at least three affairs with women; he has never once commented on the suggestion that his interest in homosexuality was anything other than artistic and compassionate, except to characterize his forty-year life with Tony Forwood as asexual, often adding the intriguing piece of information that Forwood was anti-homosexual.

Dirk has always said that their life together was a deep friendship and the house-sharing of two increasingly confirmed bachelors.

Mmm. I guess that given that homosexual acts were illegal during most of his career, and that he was no doubt unwilling to jeopardize his large female fan base, it would make sense for Bogarde to say these types of things about his relationship with Forwood. His younger brother Gareth Van den Bogaerde, however, confirmed in a 2004 interview that Bogarde was engaging in homosexual sex at a time when such acts were illegal, and that his long-term relationship with Tony Forwood was indeed more than simply that of a manager and friend. He also noted how Dirk "hated himself" and was jealous of his brother's heterosexuality.

Bogarde's friend Helena Bonham Carter believes that the actor and author could never come out as gay in later life because he was unwilling to face the fact that he had been forced to live a lie during his career. Of her time working with Bogarde in the late 1980s, Carter says: “He would always make out that he was a macho heterosexual. He was conscious of keeping the mystery, weaving webs. But he was really a hunk of self-denial”.

Can you see why I find this aspect of Dirk's life saddening? Thank God things aren't as difficult today for gay people. I realize that there are some parts of the world where homosexuality is still treated as a crime and something of which to be ashamed (see Monday's post), but I'd like to believe that, overall, society has and is progressing and becoming more enlightened and accepting of the diversity of human sexuality.

Anyway, the excerpt from that I share today deals, not with Bogarde's personal life – well, at least not directly, but rather his formidable acting abilities.

At play in Bogarde’s magnetism was his ability to ‘get to the gut and mind’ of his viewers and to tap into their emotions. (For the Time Being, 82-83) He understood the inherent sensuality in cinema, explaining to one interviewer: ‘This is a fantasy land ... The basic thing about the cinema is sensuality... eroticism... All great art is a stimulation of the senses, and if they are not the sexual senses, they are the senses that stimulate and excite and liberate.’ (Wiedenman, 56) He knew well the power of an actor to tap the ‘emotional receptivity and craving’ in audiences. Early on, he realized that he had sex appeal on screen and how audiences reacted to him: ‘People were turned on by me... there was an alchemy at work and so I used it... I was going to make every wing commander I played as mischievous, as flirty, as physically attractive as I could... You’ve got to work at your charm... your sex appeal.’ (Dirk Bogarde: By Myself) But he also knew that sex appeal alone would not hold an audience for long.

For Bogarde, a potent force in holding an audience’s attention was the magic that derived from the focused use of an actor’s ‘energy’, which was ‘both mental and physical’ and sprang ‘directly from the gut’. If an actor can tap it to transform himself ‘not through tricks of make-up or lighting’ but through a sudden release of that energy in a scene, it becomes ‘the life force behind a performance; without it a performance can be adequate, acceptable: but lacking in lustre.’ When an actor creates that magic on screen, ‘an audience will react instantly: the experience disturbs, excites, and involves them completely.’ (Backcloth, 209-210) No longer mere observers, the audience shares the experience. Bogarde had the rare ability to do this and to take his audiences to what he called a ‘higher plane of experience.’

Above: Dirk Bogarde in the 1958 film A Tale of Two Cities.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Dirk Bogarde (Part 1)
Dirk Bogarde (Part 2)
Dirk Bogarde (Part 3)

Recommended Off-site Links:
The Private Dirk Bogarde (Part 1) - 1/6, 2/6, 3/6, 4/6, 5/6, 6/6
The Private Dirk Bogarde (Part 2) - 1/8, 2/8, 3/8, 4/8, 5/8, 6/8, 7/8, 8/8