Thursday, March 31, 2011

Out and About – March 2011

Above: With my boys Quinn and Eddie at the home of my friends John and Noelle – whose son (and my good friend) Phil took this wonderful photo!

For more images of my canine friends Quinn and Eddie, see here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Above: On the evening of Ash Wednesday (March 9), Doug and I prepared a delicious vegan soup at the home of my longtime friends Ken and Carol.

From left: Carol, Ken, Doug, Sue Ann, Betty and Kathleen.

For my Lenten reflection, "Waking Dagobert," click here. For the Lenten thoughts of others shared this year at The Wild Reed, see here and here.

Lots of meeting this month! Some were with folks from the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform as we continue to plan for Synod 2011 and the launching of the Council of the Baptized.

Other meetings, such as the one above, involved members of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN . From left: Paula, Lisa, Scott, Mary Kay, and Frank.

A primary goal of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN is to educate, inspire and mobilize local Catholics to speak out against and reject any form of anti-gay marriage legislation that they may be called to vote on in 2012. Sadly, such legislation is a
priority for the Minnesota Catholic Conference of Bishops. Recent data clearly shows, however, that the majority of Catholics support same-sex civil marriage. Still, we have a difficult road ahead of us if, as anticipated, an anti-gay marriage amendment is put on the ballot in 2012. I'll definitely keep folks posted, via both The Wild Reed and The Progressive Catholic Voice, about the upcoming events and initiatives currently being planned by Catholics for Marriage Equality MN.

Above: The birthday celebration for my friend Larry (third from left) at Rudolph's – Saturday, March 12, 2011.

Above: Friends Michael and David at Rudolph's. David is a longtime advocate for LGBT right in the church and society, the co-founder of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, co-convener of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, and the 2010 recipient of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's Adsum Award. He and his partner Michael have been together for over ten years.

Right: With my friend Al at Rudolph's – March 12, 2011.

Above: An anti-war march and rally at the Minnesota State Capitol – Saturday, March 19, 2011.

Left: With my friend Gail at the Capitol – March 19, 2011.

On Friday, March 25, I had a social gathering of members and supporters of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN at my home in St. Paul.

Right: My friends Michael and Jim.

Left: Friends Mary Beth, Mary Kay, and Paula.

Above: Friends Ann, John, Noelle and Michael – March 25, 2011.

Right: My party became, at one point, an impromptu "listening session." And that was okay!

Quote of the Day

. . . The church has not only changed throughout the ages, it has changed more in the 50 years since Vatican II than in the first 2,000 years – just like everything else in the world. . . . Consider birth control. In 1966 a Papal Commission of 72 experts from five continents, including bishops, clergy, physicians, and married couples, after three years of study advised Pope Paul VI that artificial birth control was not intrinsically evil and that Catholic couples should be allowed to decide for themselves what methods to use. But the head of the commission, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, counseled the pope that a change in this teaching would jeopardize the church's credibility. In 1968 the pope issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae which reiterated the church's anti-birth-control position. Immediately the church's credibility was in jeopardy. In 2011 eight out of ten Catholics are certain that artificial birth control is a blessing, not a sin. This non-definitive teaching can change. What will not change is the chosen part of sexual intimacy in marriage: love.

The church has changed. It is changing. It will change.

After the dust settles, the gold will remain.

– Michael Leach
"Can the Catholic Church Change?"
The Huffington Post
March 30, 2011

NOTE: Michael Leach is the author of the recently released book Why Stay Catholic? Unexpected Answers to a Life-Changing Question.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
What It Means to Be Catholic
A Church That Can and Cannot Change
Robert McClory on Humane Vitae
Mary Hunt: "Catholicism is a Very Complex Reality"
Tips for Thinking Catholics
Who Gets to Be Called Catholic – and Why?
Staying on Board
Beyond Papalism
A Return to the Spirit
The Catholic Challenge
The Treasure and the Dross

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Celebration of Faith and Family; A Call for Compassion and Fairness

Okay, this post is long overdue! But here, finally, is my report on last month's Freedom to Marry Day at the Minnesota State Capitol.

Held on Thursday, February 10, and organized by OutFront Minnesota, the Freedom to Marry Day saw over 400 people gather in the rotunda of the Capitol building to hear leaders from a number of faith traditions speak out for marriage equality.

As in previous years, I was honored to stand with these inspiring men and women of faith as a representative of the many Catholics supportive of LGBT people, relationships and families – and thus supportive of marriage equality. And as you'll see, I was not the only Catholic to speak out.

Following are photos, quotes and commentary from the wonderful celebration of faith and family, and the rousing call for compassion and fairness that was last month's Freedom to Marry Day. Enjoy!

Left: Javen Swanson, Intern Pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, and his husband Oby Ballinger, pastor at Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul Park.

"We're here in the name of the God of many names and one vision of abundant life for all people," said Oby. "We're here today as people of many colors, shapes, abilities, orientations and genders because God is a beautiful creative artist."

"We gather with our families to support equal recognition of all families in Minnesota," added Javen. "We are diverse in our identity but united in our conviction that love is love and that families spawned from our love deserve the same status and recognition as any other."

Above: Openly gay Minnesota Senator Scott Dibble.

"We can defeat the mean-spirited effort [to enshrine discrimination against gay people in the Minnesota Constitution]" said Scott. "More and more people understand who we are as human beings, understand who we are as families. And folks here at the Capitol need to understand that."

Above: The Reverend LeeAnne Watkins, Pastor of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in St. Paul.

LeeAnne began by honoring all those in the Episcopal Church who in years past had worked tirelessly to allow women to be ordained as priests. "Because of their efforts," she said, "I now see it as my turn, my vocation, to open any door that is shut to any of God's children."

She encouraged those working for marriage equality to be "joyful, prayerful, loving and persistent" in their efforts.

Left: Benilde-St. Margaret High School student Sean Simonson. You may recall that Sean was in the news last November after his school newsletter commentary, "Life as a Gay Teenager," was censored by school authorities.

"One day when I was in the seventh grade," said Sean at the Freedom to Marry Day, "I was walking home from school and saw some kids playing in a yard. I decided that when I grew up my family . . . And then I stopped. I stood there and at that moment I watched my American Dream die. I could never get married. I would never have kids. I would never have a family. I only realized I was gay that previous December, and I thought I had become use to the sense of loss and isolation. But the grief that I felt in that moment overshadowed anything that I had ever felt before. That day I lost my patriotic innocence. America was no longer a home offering me freedom, justice and equality. Not having the right to marry was not something I could come to terms with as a 13-year-old. And it's something that I still have not come to terms with."

"For five years my anger built up inside me," continued Sean. "Time and time again, the nation voted in candidates that voted against my rights. Classmates used my sexuality as an insult, as a slur. Even my own archbishop went to the lengths of producing a DVD that called for further discrimination against me. I decided to do something. So in response I wrote an article for my school newspaper, outlining some of the things that my straight friends might not know what I had to go through every day as a gay teenager."

Despite the controversy Sean's article caused, he nevertheless noted that "it could not compare to the love and understanding that overwhelmed me. Countless people stopped me in the halls, posted on my Facebook wall, sent me e-mails . . . wrote me letters – all affirming my decision to speak out. Finally, they too had the chance to come out and voice their support."

"More and more kids are turning eighteen," observed Sean, "and a new generation is starting to have its say. I know that my generation is going to use their voice to stop any law or policy that prevents a 13-year-old, or anyone, from dreaming."

Above: "I'm not here as a religious person," said Dan Hawkins of Minneapolis. "I'm here primarily as a gay man and as a Minnesotan."

Dan's message was a simple yet powerful one: "We need to stand up for equal civil rights for everyone, and not put them to the vote by the majority."

He shared the story of how, when backpacking last summer with his partner of 23 years, he caught a tick-bourne illness. "I got very sick and was very close to dying. [My partner] was with me every minute I needed him. . . . The fact that we live in Minnesota where there were no questions asked, where he could be there [at the hospital] all the time, was something I took for granted."

Dan noted, however, that not all places in the U.S. are as accepting of same-sex partners when it comes to medical emergencies. An amendment to the Minnesota Constitution banning same-sex marriage and potentially all legal equivalents would effectively end the openness, compassion and acceptance that Dan and his partner experienced when they dealt with Dan's medical crisis last year. He urged those in attendance to work to defeat any such proposed amendment.

Left: Doug Donnolly of University Baptist Church in Minneapolis.

"Good religious people support equal rights for everyone," declared Doug to enthusiastic applause. "Good religious people support marriage rights for all people. Good religious folks support freedom and justice and equality for all people. We do this because we're part of an ancient narrative that has always stood by those deemed as outcasts. . . . God is always on the side of liberation and justice."

Above: Tom and Darlene White, co-founders of Catholic Rainbow Parents.

"Darlene and I are here," said Tom, "representing the very best of our Catholic upbringing in standing with the many Catholics who in their deepest conscience believe in a God that not only cherishes but celebrates our LGBT brothers and sisters in their struggle for justice and equality for their families."

"We are the proud grandparents of two wonderful boys," continued Tom, "who happen to have two moms, one of whom is our only daughter. They are good athletes and exceptional students. Last year, the eldest boy chose as a topic for a class assignment: 'Gay Marriage: The Argument for Equality.' He wrote: 'One politician states that children raised in a home with gay parents will not be as likely to succeed. I have found, however, in my personal experience, that I am doing quite well, which I hope will undermine this [politician's] argument.'"

"Why should a 15-year-old have to defend his family's very existence?" asked Tom. "My wish would be that every legislator would spend just one day with a family like ours and experience the family bonding of love and life that goes on there."

Right: "For the sake of all children we gather here from all over Minnesota to keep and make real the vision of fairness, compassion and equality," said Darlene.

With my dear friends Tom and Darlene White.

Following is the text of the speech I delivered at the Freedom to Marry Day on February 10, 2011.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak.

My name is Michael Bayly and I’m one of a growing number of Catholics who have claimed the priesthood of their baptism so as to speak out for marriage equality.

As you all know, one of the most well-funded and vocal groups working to deny civil marriage rights to gay people is the clerical hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. Here in Minnesota this group has already spent over four million dollars on an anti-gay marriage DVD campaign. And they’ll no doubt spend more in the months ahead. Catholic Archbishop John Nienstedt has made no secret of the fact that working against marriage equality is one of his major priorities in 2011.

Yet as a gay Catholic man I want to let you know that when it comes to the issue of gay rights, Archbishop Nienstedt and the clerical caste of the church do not speak for the majority of American Catholics. In fact, recent polls tell us that American Catholics are among the strongest supporters of equality for LGBT people. [And since the time I made this statement last month there has been further evidence of this strong support. See, for instance, the links provided at the end of this post.]

In our talking about this issue it’s crucial that we always remember and highlight this important difference between the Catholic people and the Catholic hierarchy. Make no mistake, the bishops are increasingly out of touch with God’s spirit of compassion and justice alive in the Catholic people and the wider world.

I believe that one reason for why members of the Catholic hierarchy are so opposed to gay marriage is that they know that Catholics are a key religious group in the struggle for marriage equality. The data is clear: Catholics serve as a very important “moveable middle” on key socio-political issues – including gay marriage. For example, 62% of Catholics believe in the acceptance of homosexuality while almost 50% would vote for marriage equality. Because the next generation of Catholics have no time for discrimination against their gay friends and family members, we are seeing these numbers rising. And with this will come change.

We need to let our elected representatives know this. We need to remind them that when it comes to the issue of gay rights, the members of the clerical hierarchy of the Catholic Church, despite their well-funded platform, their bullying tactics, and their much-publicized efforts, do not represent the thinking of the majority of Catholic people.

In closing, I want to let you know that here in Minnesota there are many Catholics – gay and straight – who are on your side. We call ourselves Catholics for Marriage Equality MN. We’ve issued a Statement of Support for Marriage Equality (which you can read and sign on our website) and we’ve released a DVD featuring theologian Daniel Maguire speaking on how you can indeed be Catholic and support gay marriage. Think of it as the other Catholic DVD campaign.

For information about these initiatives and our group, please see me after the rally.

Thank you for your time.

Above: My friends Mary Lynn, Bob and Paula.

NOTE: In addition to those I've highlighted above, other speakers at OutFront Minnesota's Freedom to Marry Day included Representative Karen Clark; Rabbi Jared Saks of Temple Israel, Minneapolis; Reverend David Breeden of Minnesota Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship; Reverend Elizabeth Macaulay of Richfield United Methodist Church; Reverend Dan Garnaas of Grace University Lutheran Church, Minneapolis; Rev. Dr. James Gertmenian of Plymouth Congregational Church, Minneapolis; Claire and Liz Bryan; Linda Solka and the Religious Education class from Unitarian Universalist Church of Minnetonka; and Monica Meyer, executive director of OutFront Minnesota.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Catholics for Marriage Equality MN
OutFront Minnesota
Five Reasons We Shouldn't Be Surprised That Catholics Support LGBT Rights – Paul Gorrell (, March 25, 2011 – via The Progressive Catholic Voice).
Catholics More Supportive of Gay Rights Than General Public, Other Christians – Michael Sean Winters (National Catholic Reporter, March 22, 2011 – via The Progressive Catholic Voice).
U.S. Catholics Break with Church Hierarchy on Gay Relationships – Cathy Lynn Grossman (USA Today, March 23, 2011).
A Catholic Defense of Same-Sex Marriage – Daniel Maguire (The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics, April 20, 2006).
Dialoguing with the Archbishop: Amendment Campaign Contrary to Church Moral Teaching – Paula Ruddy (The Progressive Catholic Voice, March 3, 2011).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Catholic Statement of Support for Same-Sex Marriage
Jonathan Capehart: "Catholics Lead the Way on Same-Sex Marriage"
Catholic Dad: "My Gay Son and His Partner are Made in the Likeness and Image of God"
A Cradle Catholic's Case for Same-Sex Marriage
A Message for NOM (and the Catholic Hierarchy)
A Hopeful and Encouraging Trend
At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Marriage Equality
A Catholic Voice for Marriage Equality at the State Capitol
300+ People Vigil at the Cathedral in Solidarity with LGBT Catholics
Voices of Parental Authority and Wisdom
A Parent's Prayer
Catholic Theologian: "Heterosexism, Not Homosexuality, is the Problem"

Monday, March 28, 2011

Quote of the Day

. . . In our own time, as Marx predicted, inequalities of wealth have dramatically deepened. The income of a single Mexican billionaire today is equivalent to the earnings of the poorest 17 million of his compatriots. Capitalism has created more prosperity than history has ever witnessed, but the cost — not least in the near destitution of billions — has been astronomical. According to the World Bank, 2.74 billion people in 2001 lived on less than two dollars a day. We face a probable future of nuclear-armed states warring over a scarcity of resources; and that scarcity is largely the consequence of capitalism itself. Capitalism will behave anti-socially if it is profitable for it to do so, and that can now mean human devastation on an unimaginable scale. What used to be apocalyptic fantasy is today no more than sober realism. The traditional leftist slogan ‘‘Socialism or barbarism’’ was never more grimly apposite, never less of a mere rhetorical flourish.

. . . . It is not that the building of socialism cannot be begun in deprived conditions. It is rather that without material resources it will tend to twist into the monstrous caricature of socialism known as Stalinism. The Bolshevik revolution soon found itself besieged by imperial Western armies, as well as threatened by counterrevolution, urban famine, and a bloody civil war. With a narrow capitalist base, disastrously low levels of material production, scant traces of civil institutions, a decimated, exhausted working class, peasant revolts, and a swollen bureaucracy to rival the tsar’s, the revolution was in deep trouble almost from the outset. In the end, the Bolsheviks were to march their starving, despondent, war-weary people into modernity at the point of a gun.

Marx himself was a critic of rigid dogma, military terror, political suppression, and arbitrary state power. He believed that political representatives should be accountable to their electors, and castigated the German Social Democrats of his day for their statist politics. He insisted on free speech and civil liberties, was horrified by the forced creation of an urban proletariat (in his case in England rather than Russia), and held that common ownership in the countryside should be a voluntary rather than coercive process. Yet as one who recognized that socialism cannot thrive in poverty-stricken conditions, he would have understood perfectly how the Russian revolution came to be lost. . . .

– Terry Eagleton
"Was Marx Right? It's Not Too Late to Ask"
April 8, 2011

Recommended Off-site Link:
Capitalism's Dismal Future – Paul Mattick (The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 13, 2011).
The Left Needs More Socialism – Ronald Aronson (The Nation, April 1, 2006).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Capitalism on Trial
R.I.P. Neoclassical Economics
In a Blow to Democracy, U.S. Supreme Court Affirms Corporate Personhood
Obama a Socialist? Hardly
Playwright Tony Kushner on Being a Socialist
A Socialist Response to the Financial Crisis

Dirk Bogarde's "War Against Himself"

This week in Britain sees the release of a box-set of Dirk Bogarde films. If he was still alive, the actor would turn 90 today.

In a fascinating article last week in The Guardian entitled "Dirk Bogarde: The Rebellion of a Reluctant Pinup," Matthew Sweet discusses with great insight Bogarde's career trajectory and muses on why the actor "never became the pre-eminent face of the British new wave."

"Perhaps he was just too old," writes Sweet. "Or perhaps he boiled with the wrong kind of anger. The fury he committed to the screen was rarely the righteous kind. It is usually a product of something deeply felt but morally murky. . . . A line like 'Don't let the bastards grind you down' would not have spilled easily from his mouth. And this is one of the reasons why his work remains compelling. Even when he was playing the hero, Bogarde was usually one of the bastards."

The gifted yet troubled Dirk Bogarde was the subject of one of my first series of posts here at The Wild Reed. It was a series prompted by my 2006 reading of John Coldstream's Dirk Bogarde: The Authorised Biography. The actor was also the subject of a subsequent post, Revisiting Dirk Bogarde.

I mention all of this as way of introducing the following excerpt from Matthew Sweet's article on Bogarde.


. . . Bogarde died in the last year of the last century. He would have been 90 years old on Monday. For the last two decades of his life, however, cinema commanded very little of his attention. Instead, he became a prolific producer of witty but not particularly reliable memoirs – bestsellers in which he romanticised his childhood in a verdant swathe of the Thames Valley, gave a dubious account of his wartime experiences and poured gentle scorn on his former life as a matinee idol.

His film career, however, is in no danger of slipping from our cultural memory. That pretty-boy psychopath who guns down PC Jack Warner in The Blue Lamp; the sleekly charming Simon Sparrow in all those Doctor comedies [left]; his angsty Sydney Carton, soulful before the guillotine in A Tale of Two Cities; the sweatily menacing butler in The Servant, crushing James Fox into submission; the mournful sadist who lays hands on Charlotte Rampling in The Night Porter. They live on. Not just as individual performances, but as evidence of a remarkable – and often troubled – life in the movies.

The story of Dirk Bogarde's war against himself is one of the great narratives of British cinema. It's the tale of a gifted young actor who became trapped in the smooth screen persona prescribed for him by his employers, and how he broke from it by embracing controversy, art and Europe. The killer blow came in 1960 when he joined the cast of a campaigning picture called Victim [right]. ("I wanted him! I wanted him!" Bogarde declares, in the film's best-remembered scene, as his lawyer hero confesses his desire for a teenage runaway called Boy Barrett.) And when the credits rolled, so the story goes, all the girls who had swooned over him in the Doctor pictures and fantasised about being taken out by him for a drink at a Home Counties golf club, quietly took down their Dr Sparrow posters and redirected their desires towards Cliff Richard. It's an engaging story. And it's almost true. . . .

To read Matthew Sweet's "Dirk Bogarde: The Rebellion of a Reluctant Pinup" in its entirety, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Dirk Bogarde (Part I)
Dirk Bogarde (Part II)
Dirk Bogarde (Part III)
Revisiting Dirk Bogarde
Out and About – November 2009

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

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Prayer of the Week

Prayer in Honor of Those Whom Jesus Loved

Jesus who loved the Samaritan woman,
outcast proclaimer of your name,
let us love and support all those who proclaim
your name to the gay and lesbian community.

Jesus who loved the lepers
whom others called unclean,
let us see the glory of creation everywhere,
in everyone.

Jesus who loved the one condemned with him
and promised him heaven by virtue of his faith,
give us the faith to broaden our vision
of the reign of God.

Jesus who loved the hemorrhaging woman,
long ignored and thought to be intrinsically disordered,
give us hearts large enough to embrace
those whom the world calls bent.

Jesus who loved the tax collector the community feared,
enable us to put down our fear of those
who are different from ourselves.

Jesus who loved the Roman soldier,
foreigner and oppressor,
help us to love those who make exiles of
our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

Jesus who loves us in all our humanness, all our glories,
enable us to love those
whose glories we have failed to see.

You who called women disciples in a male world,
who confronted leaders of the synagogue
with their sins of injustice,
who sent out your disciples to the whole world,
give us the courage to stand with
our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters,
their families and those who minister to them.
Give us the grace to confront their rejection,
to ease their loneliness,
to calm their fears and
to belie their sense of abandonment.

Give us all the grace to own our sexual identity,
whatever its orientation,
as another manifestation of your goodness.
Give us the vision to recognize and reject
the homophobia around us and in our own hearts, as well.

May we and the church of Jesus open
our hearts and homes and sanctuaries
to the gay and lesbian community,
to the glory of God they bring in new voice,
with different face.

Let us bless the God of differences.

Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA
Text by Joan D. Chittister, OSB

This prayer was written in response to the May 1999 decision by the Vatican to silence Father Robert Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick in their ministry to gays and lesbians, whose sexual orientation the Vatican declares "intrinsically disordered."

Photo of the Day

Image: "Kitchen Vignette with Doug and Eddie" by Michael J. Bayly.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Quote of the Day

. . . In this latest survey Catholics have simply continued to show the complexity of their thinking and confounded the general sense that they’re out of touch, reactionary, and against sexual justice. In fact, we might argue that it’s precisely because they are Catholics, they get the issues related to LGBT rights.

– Paul Gorrell
"5 Reasons We Shouldn't Be Surprised
That Catholics Support LGBT Rights
March 25, 2011

Recommended Off-site Links:
Catholics More Supportive of Gay Rights Than General Public, Other Christians
– Michael Sean Winters (National Catholic Reporter, March 22, 2011 – via The Progressive Catholic Voice).
U.S. Catholics Break with Church Hierarchy on Gay Relationships
– Cathy Lynn Grossman (USA Today, March 23, 2011).
A Catholic Defense of Same-Sex Marriage
– Daniel Maguire (The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics, April 20, 2006).
A Catholic Case for Same-Sex Marriage
– Erma M. Durkin (The Baltimore Sun, March 6, 2011).
Dialoguing with the Archbishop: Amendment Campaign Contrary to Church Moral Teaching
– Paula Ruddy (The Progressive Catholic Voice, March 3, 2011).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Catholic Statement of Support for Same-Sex Marriage
Jonathan Capehart: "Catholics Lead the Way on Same-Sex Marriage"
At UTS, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Marriage Equality
A Hopeful and Encouraging Trend
A Message for NOM (and the Catholic Hierarchy)
A Catholic Voice for Marriage Equality at the State Capitol

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rosabelle, believe . . .

. . . not even eternity can hold Houdini.

Earlier this week it was reported that Dorothy Young (pictured at left), the last surviving assistant to share the stage with Harry Houdini, had passed away at age 103.

Friday night being "music night" at The Wild Reed, I'd thought I'd take this opportunity to share Kate Bush's song "Houdini," from her 1982 album The Dreaming. Described as "strik[ing] the perfect balance between big bold glossy pop record and major weirdo art-statement," The Dreaming is definitely one of my favorite Kate Bush albums!

Its cover depicts Kate as Harry Houdini's wife Bess, passing a key via a farewell kiss to her manacled husband before he embarks on one of his death-defying escapades. Apparently, that was one of the tricks the pair used to ensure his survival.

With a kiss,
I'd pass the key.
And feel your tongue
teasing and deceiving.

Of course, at one point things went terribly wrong, resulting in Houdini's death on October 31, 1926.

Along with his daring escape acts, Houdini spent much of his adult life seeking to debunk spiritualists and mediums. He shared with Bess a secret code that, after his death, she then used to ascertain if he actually made contact with her from beyond the grave via various mediums. The code involved the word "Rosabelle," which Houdini had inscribed inside a ring he had given Bess. The word was from a song she sang when they first shared a bill (and fell in love) on Coney Island.

Rosabelle, sweet Rosabelle,
I love you more than I can tell.
Over me you cast a spell.
I love you, my sweet Rosabelle.

In the years following Houdini's death, Bess attended numerous seances with many different mediums. One of them appeared to convey the secret "code." However, it was later discovered that Bess may have accidentally shared the code with this particular medium prior to the seance. She would eventually conclude that it was impossible to communicate with the dead.

Kate Bush must have either been unaware of this rather crucial piece of the story or chose to ignore it when she wrote and recorded "Houdini" in 1982. Perhaps she sought to convey something of what Queen Victoria, as played by Pauline Collins in the Doctor Who episode "Tooth and Claw," grapples with when, reflecting on her deceased husband, she remarks:

The charm of a ghost story isn't the scares and chills – that's just for children – but the hope of some contact with the great beyond. We all want some message from that place. It's the Creator's greatest mystery that we're allowed no such consolation. The dead stay silent. And we must wait.

I wait at the table,
and hold hands with weeping strangers.
Wait for you
to join the group.

The tambourine jingle-jangles.
The medium roams and rambles.
Not taken in,
I break the circle.
I want this man
to go away now.

With a kiss
I'd pass the key
and feel your tongue
teasing and receiving.

With your spit
still on my lip,
you hit the water.

Him and I in the room
To prove you are with us too.

He's using code that only you and I know.
This is no trick of his.
This is your magic.

I'd catch the cues,
watching you,
hoping you'd do something wrong.

Everybody thinks you'll never make it,
but every time,
you escape:

"Rosabel believe,
Not even eternity
can hold Houdini!"

("Rosabel, believe!")

Through the glass
I'd watch you breathe.
("Not even eternity . . .")
Bound and drowned,
And paler than you've ever been.
(". . . can hold Houdini!")

With your life
the only thing in my mind –
we pull you from the water!


You ("Hou-di-ni...")
And I
And Rosabel believe.

Opening image: Guy Pearce as Harry Houdini in the 2007 film Death Defying Acts.
All other black and white images: The real Harry Houdini and his wife Bess. (Photographers unknown.)

Recommended Off-site Link:
Wild About Harry

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Quote of the Day

. . . Republicans like to cast themselves as the protectors of “family values.” But that mantle properly belongs to President Obama and the Congressional Democrats committed to ending [the] atrocious [Defense of Marriage Act].

Denying same-sex couples and their families the significant savings of filing joint tax returns, Social Security survivor benefits, and about 1,130-plus other spousal benefits and protections granted other married couples is not a family-friendly policy. It is discrimination, plain and simple.

– Excerpted from "Real Family Values,"
New York Times editorial, March 23, 2011

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – February 23, 2011
Quote of the Day – February 24, 2011
Jonathan Capehart: "Catholics Lead the Way on Same-Sex Marriage"
Steve Chapman: "Time is On the Side of Gay Marriage"

Recommended Off-site Link:
Dialoguing with the Archbishop: Amendment Campaign Contrary to Church Moral Teaching
– Paula Ruddy (The Progressive Catholic Voice, March 3, 2011).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Winged Heart

I think I’ve found the design for my tattoo! It’s the Sufi symbol of the winged heart.

Actually, I don’t think I’ll be getting a tattoo any time soon. For one thing I haven’t got the money and, for another, I think I’d be too much of a wimp with regard the pain!

Anyway, here’s what Toby Johnson, author of, among other books, Gay Spirituality and Charmed Lives, says about this beautiful symbol.

The symbol of the Sufis is a winged heart. Sufism is not a way of the head but of the heart. The way to fly to God is to open the heart, to be human and to love and offer life in service to God and to others. The primary mystical teaching of Sufism is contained in the Sufi interpretation of the Islamic credo La Ilaha El Allah Hu. What most Muslims interpret as a declaration of monotheism, “There is no God but Allah,” the Sufis understand as a revelation of ultimate unity: “There is no reality but God.” To remind themselves of the implications of this, Sufis sometimes greet one another with Ya Azim: “How wonderfully God manifests to me through you.”

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Sufi Way
In the Garden of Spirituality – Doris Lessing
A Living Twenty-First Century Tradition
It Happens All the Time in Heaven
Oh, Yeah!
Clarity, Hope and Courage
An Evening with the Yuval Ron Ensemble
In the Garden of Spirituality – Toby Johnson

Image: "Silent Winged Prayer" by Susan St.Thomas, who describes her artwork as: “A meditation for both opening of the heart and Divine protection. The winged heart is a symbol for the mystical path of the Sufi. The purple magnolia symbolizes the innermost chamber of the heart, set in a mandala inspired by an ancient Sufi prayer rug pattern.”