Friday, November 30, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Something to Cherish

Earlier in the week I brought down from the attic my little artificial Christmas tree and set it up in the living room of my south Minneapolis home. My friend and housemate Tim (left) then helped me decorate it.

I've always appreciated and enjoyed Christmas trees – though even more so since moving to the U.S. when the time they're put up is cold and dark. Without doubt, the soft warm glow of a lighted tree conveys so much more here in the darkness of winter than it did for me as a child growing up in the glaring heat of an Australian summer! Of course, given that the tradition began in the northern climes of Europe, the symbolism is intentional.

I bought my Christmas tree in 2007, when I was living in St. Paul. It's one of those trees that has lights built into it, if you know what I mean. I discovered this year that a section of lights on my tree are no longer working. Thankfully, it's not that obvious, and my tree, as these photos attest, still looks lovely! Indeed, there's nothing more I enjoy doing late in the evening than to sit in the darkened room with a hot cup of herbal tea and just look at my little Christmas tree! Occasionally, I may have some music on in the background – Kate Bush's winter-themed album 50 Words for Snow, for instance, or the beautiful music of Loreena McKennit, or the other-worldly Sacred Spirit album.

More often than not, however, I just sit in the silence and stillness of the night. Invariably, this time becomes one of contemplation and prayer. It's a winter pastime I've come to cherish.

I find the origins and history of the Christmas Tree to be quite interesting, and so I share below Wikipedia's documentation of this origin and history. Enjoy!

The custom of the Christmas tree developed in early modern Germany with predecessors that can be traced to the 16th and possibly the 15th century. It acquired popularity beyond Germany during the second half of the 19th century. The Christmas tree has also been known as the "Yule-tree", especially in discussions of its folkloristic origins.

While it is clear that the modern Christmas tree originates in Renaissance and early modern Germany, there are a number of speculative theories as to its ultimate origin. . . . It is frequently traced to the symbolism of evergreen trees in pre-Christian winter rites, especially with the story of the Donar Oak and Saint Boniface.

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime."

Alternatively, it is identified with the "tree of paradise" of medieval mystery plays that were given on 24 December, the commemoration and name day of Adam and Eve in various countries. In such plays, a tree decorated with apples (to represent the forbidden fruit) and wafers (to represent the Eucharist and redemption) was used as a setting for the play. Like the Christmas crib, the Paradise tree was later placed in homes. The apples were replaced by round objects such as shiny red balls.

Customs of erecting decorated trees in wintertime can be traced to Christmas celebrations in Renaissance-era guilds in Northern Germany and Livonia. The first evidence of decorated trees associated with Christmas Day are trees in guild halls decorated with sweets to be enjoyed by the apprentices and children. In Livonia (present-day Latvia and Estonia), in 1441, 1442, 1510 and 1514, the Brotherhood of Blackheads erected a tree for the holidays in their guild houses in Reval (now Tallinn) and Riga. On the last night of the celebrations leading up to the holidays, the tree was taken to the Town Hall Square where the members of the brotherhood danced around it. A Bremen guild chronicle of 1570 reports that a small tree decorated with "apples, nuts, dates, pretzels and paper flowers" was erected in the guild-house for the benefit of the guild members' children, who collected the dainties on Christmas Day. In 1584, the pastor and chronicler Balthasar Russow in his Chronica der Provinz Lyfflandt wrote of an established tradition of setting up a decorated spruce at the market square where the young men "went with a flock of maidens and women, first sang and danced there and then set the tree aflame."

After the Reformation, such trees are seen in the houses of upper-class Protestant families as a counterpart to the Catholic Christmas cribs. This transition from the guild hall to the bourgeois family homes in the Protestant parts of Germany ultimately gives rise to the modern tradition as it developed in the 18th and 19th centuries.

By the early 18th century, the custom had become common in towns of the upper Rhineland, but it had not yet spread to rural areas. Along the lower Rhine, an area of Roman Catholic majority, the Christmas tree was largely regarded as a Protestant custom. As a result, it remained confined to the upper Rhineland for a relatively long period of time. The custom did eventually gain wider acceptance, beginning around 1815, by way of Prussian officials who emigrated there following the Congress of Vienna.

In the 19th century, the Christmas tree was taken to be an expression of German culture and of Gemütlichkeit, especially among emigrants overseas. . . . In the early 19th century, the custom became popular among the nobility and spread to royal courts as far as Russia. Princess Henrietta of Nassau-Weilburg introduced the Christmas tree to Vienna in 1816, and the custom spread across Austria in the following years. In France, the first Christmas tree was introduced in 1840 by the duchesse d'Orléans. In Denmark a Danish newspaper claims that the first attested Christmas tree was lit in 1808 by countess Wilhemine of Holsteinborg. It was the aging countess who told the story of the first Danish Christmas tree to the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen in 1865. He had published a fairy-tale called The Fir-Tree in 1844, recounting the fate of a fir-tree being used as a Christmas tree.

In Britain, the Christmas tree was introduced in the time of the personal union with Hanover, by George III's Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in the early 19th century.

. . . The tradition was introduced to Canada in the winter of 1781 by Brunswick soldiers stationed in the Province of Quebec to garrison the colony against American attack. General Friedrich Adolf Riedesel and his wife, the Baroness von Riedesel, held a Christmas party at Sorel, delighting their guests with a fir tree decorated with candles and fruits.

A woodcut of the British Royal family with their Christmas tree at Windsor Castle, initially published in the Illustrated London News December 1848, was copied in the United States at Christmas 1850, in Godey's Lady's Book. Godey's copied it exactly, except for the removal of the Queen's tiara and Prince Albert's mustache, to remake the engraving into an American scene [left]. The republished Godey's image became the first widely circulated picture of a decorated evergreen Christmas tree in America. Art historian Karal Ann Marling called Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, shorn of their royal trappings, "the first influential American Christmas tree." Folk-culture historian Alfred Lewis Shoemaker states, "In all of America there was no more important medium in spreading the Christmas tree in the decade 1850-60 than Godey's Lady's Book". The image was reprinted in 1860, and by the 1870s, putting up a Christmas tree had become common in America.

Several cities in the United States with German connections lay claim to that country's first Christmas tree: Windsor Locks, Connecticut, claims that a Hessian soldier put up a Christmas tree in 1777 while imprisoned at the Noden-Reed House, while the "First Christmas Tree in America" is also claimed by Easton, Pennsylvania, where German settlers purportedly erected a Christmas tree in 1816. In his diary, Matthew Zahm of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, recorded the use of a Christmas tree in 1821, leading Lancaster to also lay claim to the first Christmas tree in America. Other accounts credit Charles Follen, a German immigrant to Boston, for being the first to introduce to America the custom of decorating a Christmas tree. August Imgard, a German immigrant living in Wooster, Ohio, is the first to popularise the practice of decorating a tree with candy canes. In 1847, Imgard cut a blue spruce tree from a woods outside town, had the Wooster village tinsmith construct a star, and placed the tree in his house, decorating it with paper ornaments and candy canes. The National Confectioners Association officially recognises Imgard as the first ever to put candy canes on a Christmas tree; the canes were all-white, with no red stripes. Imgard is buried in the Wooster Cemetery, and every year, a large pine tree above his grave is lit with Christmas lights. German immigrant Charles Minnegerode accepted a position as a professor of humanities at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg in 1842, where he taught Latin and Greek. Entering into the social life of the Virginia Tidewater, Minnigerode introduced the German custom of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas at the home of law professor St. George Tucker, thereby becoming another of many influences that prompted Americans to adopt the practice at about that time.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Christmas Baubles
Out and About – December 2007
Out and About – November 2008
Out and About – November 2009
Out and About – November 2011
Photo of the Day – December 26, 2011

Photography: Michael Bayly.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Beyond the Hierarchy: The Blossoming of Liberating Catholic Insights on Sexuality (Part 7)


In the previous installments of this series I've focused on the writings of Catholic theologians so as to highlight the liberating insights on sexuality that are emerging and “blossoming” beyond the Vatican. This evening, however, I turn to the medium of film to illuminate these liberating insights, and to one film in particular: Ben Lewin's The Sessions.

A helpful way to highlight how this film both conveys and illuminates liberating insights on sexuality (insights that are beyond the range of thinking and feeling of the majority of those males who comprise the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church), is to share John Townsend's review of The Sessions published in the November 15 issue of Lavender magazine.

I say the majority who comprise the hierarchy as there are some brave individuals within this profoundly dysfunctional system who are open to the presence of the sacred beyond the narrow and limiting confines dictated by the church's 'official' sexual theology. The Sessions features a depiction of one such priest. (For another example, see Jeremy Sisto's portrayal of the young Father John Buerlein in Patrick Coyle's 2009 film, Into Temptation.)

Following, with added images and links, is John Townsend's review of The Sessions.

There are few films in all of cinema that approach the healing power of The Sessions. Perhaps no film has so guilelessy defied cultural mandates that explicit sexuality must be automatically shamed. Its source: Mark O’Brien’s autobiographical essay, "On Seeing A Sex Surrogate." And though it will be said over and again, I submit that John Hawkes and Helen Hunt give consummately noble, historic, and Oscar-worthy portrayals. Moreover, what in other hands would have been tragic becomes a transcendentally expansive and thrilling film experience that could actually shift your perception of reality.

Minnesota-born Hawkes plays Mark O’Brien, a poetic 1980s polio survivor who must spend much time in an iron lung. A 38-year-old virgin, his emotional layers are delicately interconnected with his heterosexuality. Pure fate (or destiny) leads him into erotic mentorship from a highly evolved woman and sex surrogate therapist, Cheryl Cohen Greene (Hunt). Religious types [or better said, a certain type of religious person], excessive porn consumers, and others who feel compelled to call her a whore/prostitute and/or to call him a whoremonger, misogynist, fornicator, etc. will be forced to re-think such stupid, culturally-received stereotypes.

Through Ben Lewin’s sensitive direction and screenwriting, Geoffrey Simpson’s intimate cinematography, Lisa Bromwell’s deft editing, and Marco Beltrami’s exquisite score, nothing short of a milestone film has emerged that rejects out-of-hand the asexual stereotype of persons with disabilities. Instead, it integrates their sexual expression as a vital part of healthy living. A splendidly radical notion.

In one of the finest performances of his superlative career, William H. Macy reveals sublime nuance as Mark’s priest and pal. He embodies society’s conflict of sex as immoral v. natural, and the film’s overall view implies that sex is actually a profound healing force. This shattering insight is understood by the entire major supporting cast, mostly female. They are fabulous, brave, and compassionate. The Sessions comes closer to settling the spirit v. the flesh issue of the major western religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – than perhaps any work of art ever. If everyone was required to see it, there would be a cultural shift away from sexual shame.

NEXT: Part 8

Related Off-site Links:
An Interview with Cheryl Cohen Greene – Peter Keough (The Phoenix, October 25, 2012).
The Sessions Rises Far Above Its Disability-of-the Week Conceit – David Edelstein (, October 19, 2012).
Sex, Kindness, and Polio in The Sessions – Linda Holmes (NPR, September 8, 2012).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Beyond the Hierarchy (Part 1)
Beyond the Hierarchy (Part 2)
Beyond the Hierarchy (Part 3)
Beyond the Hierarchy (Part 4)
Beyond the Hierarchy (Part 5)
Beyond the Hierarchy (Part 6)
Human Sex: Weird and Silly, Messy and Sublime
Sex as Mystery, Sex as Light (Part 1)
Sex as Mystery, Sex as Light (Part 2)
Making Love, Giving Life
Intrinsically Sexual
A "Truly Queer Theory" on Sex
The Non-Negotiables of Human Sex
Sons of the Church: The Witnessing of Gay Catholic Men: A Discussion Guide

Opening Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Friday, November 23, 2012

"Something Sacred Dwells There"

Last Sunday afternoon, November 18, 2012, my friend Karla and I spent time at Coldwater Spring (also known as Camp Coldwater), a 29-acre site between Fort Snelling and Minnehaha Falls in south Minneapolis.

The area is considered especially sacred to many in the Native community as, according to Dakota tradition, Coldwater is fed from a sacred hill directly west of the spring named Takuwakantipi – a word that can be translated as "something sacred dwells there." The water flowing from this sacred place and out through Coldwater Spring is considered "medicine water" by the Dakota people.

Coldwater is also of major significance in the history of the state of Minnesota, so much so that it's been referred to as the "birthplace of Minnesota." This is because in 1820 some of the first European occupiers established a settlement (Fort Snelling) close to the spring. Anthropologist Bruce M. White writes that the Camp Coldwater settlement is "a dream archaeological site," noting that "the birthplace of Minnesota [is] a rich, culturally diverse area in which Indian people, whites, fur traders, missionaries, soldiers and settlers came together to create the basis for the state as it is today."

In the late 1990s, both Karla and I joined with many others to protect and preserve the spring from the rerouting of Highway 55. For more about this, see this gallery at my Faces of Resistance website (from which the image at right is taken).

On March 19, 1999, Eddie Benton Benais, Grand Chief of the Mdewiwin (Medicine) Society and Anishinabe spiritual elder from Lac Courte Oreilles, Wisconsin, gave court-ordered testimony about the cultural significance of the Coldwater area.

My grandfather who died in 1942 . . . many times he retold how we traveled, how he and his family, he as a small boy traveled by foot, by horse, by canoe to this great place to where there would be these great religious, spiritual events. And that they always camped between the falls and the sacred water place. . . . We know that the falls which came to be known as Minnehaha Falls, was a sacred place, a neutral place, a place for many nations to come. And that the spring from which the sacred water should be drawn was not very far . . . a spring that all nations used to draw the sacred water for the ceremony. . . . How we take care of the water is how it will take care of us.

Although efforts to stop the rerouting of Highway 55 were unsuccessful, the Minnesota Department of Transportation nevertheless made efforts, under pressure from the community, to protect the spring from the reroute construction. Yet in the years since, the organization Friends of Coldwater has expressed concern about the flow of the spring. On its website the group writes:

Less than half the 1998 flow is currently running into the reservoir, from about 130,000 gallons per day to 60,000. . . . [F]rom July 1998, before Highway 55 reroute construction, to October 2012 . . . there [has been] a continuing downward trend.

Above: Karla with one of her 'healing dolls' at Coldwater Spring – November 18, 2012.

Above: The eco-system of the area is one of bur oak savannah.

Above: Among giants!

Related Off-site Links:
Coldwater Spring Debuts With A New Look – Tom Meersman (Star Tribune, September 3, 2012).
Coldwater Spring: A Minnesota Historic Landmark – Joel Schettler (Minnesota Monthly, July 19, 2012).
Ransacked Minnesota Historic Site to Be Reborn as Park – Tom Meersman (Star Tribune, October 24, 2011).
Coldwater Spring Facts – Susu Jeffrey (
A History of Camp

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Michael Greyeyes on Temperance as a Philosophy for Surviving

tem·per·ance (noun) – moderation or self-restraint in action, statement, etc.; self-control.

On holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas do you find yourself tempted to over do it with eating? I know I can certainly be tempted in this way.

And of course throughout the whole "holiday shopping season" between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the dominant message of our capitalist society here in the U.S. is to buy more and consume more.

All the more timely, then, to reflect upon the alternative message of the following videos.

Contrary to their titles, these videos aren't really about gluttony. Rather, they feature actor, director and choreographer Michael Greyeyes talking about the virtue of temperance and the wisdom of restraint – qualities that are the antithesis of our consumerist society yet hallmarks of all of the great spiritual traditions.

As far as I can gather, these two videos are excerpts from a short film that's part of a Bravo!FACT's series that explores the Seven Deadly Sins.

Temperance is a virtue – it's more than a virtue. It's our way forward. When my parents were raising me in Saskatchewan, I always remember them telling me one thing. They talked about patience and about watching what you say. Because they said when you say something, it comes into existence. So if you wait that one moment, that one moment of restraint or caution, [then] that hurtful thing, that impulsive thing won't escape and it won't come into being. So I always remember that and it has served me well, always taking that moment.

Temperance is made up of many things. It's humility, mercy, patience, forgiveness. This is an age of consumption. Temperance is not valued. But actually, if you were to remove yourself from, like, the heart of what we do, the way we behave, you'll find that temperance is actually a philosophy for surviving. I think as things change, as we realize that things are changing around us at unheard of paces, as the climate shifts and radically changes before our eyes, I think we'll realize that older ways of living were imbued with restraint, were imbued with a philosophy of continuance. And I think we have to relearn it.

I must say I find much in Michael Greyeyes' life as an artist and as a human being to be inspiring. Perhaps you will too after reading the following overview I've put together, one that starts with an excerpt from a review of Greyeyes' achievements written by Kenneth Noskiye.

A member of Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, Michael is a graduate of the National Ballet School in Toronto. In 1984, he went on to apprentice with the National Ballet of Canada before he joined the company as a full Corps de Ballet member.

While with the prestigious National Ballet, he performed in all the major classics, including Swan Lake, Giselle and Romeo and Juliet. In 1990 he left the National Ballet to join famed choreographer Eliot Feld in New York City. While in the Big Apple, Michael danced in many performances as a soloist, and as a featured dancer in many roles.

The year 1992 was a turning point for Michael; this was the year he choreographed his first aboriginal-related play, Glory of the Morning. "I've always been proud to be First Nation," he says. "The arts, either it be dance or film, are a way of showing the rest of the world what we have to offer." He continued to choreograph for stage and film, which included two productions of Tomson Highway's The Rez Sisters.

Since 1993, he has devoted himself to film and television. He has appeared in featured roles in such films as TNT's Geronimo. He played "Gooch" in Bruce McDonald's Dance Me Outside [above] . . . and the title role in director John Irvins' Crazy Horse [right].

He has appeared in television shows, as a guest star, on Millennium, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and as a co-star on CBS's Stolen Women, Captured Hearts [left].

All this success has not gone to his head though. "I am doing something I really enjoy," he says. "I believe our people are gifted and it's great to see so many aboriginal people starting to pursue their dreams."

Michael Greyeyes has also played supporting roles in a number of films, including Firestorm (1998), Smoke Signals (1998), Skipped Parts (2001), Sunshine State (2002), The New World (2005) (right), and Passchendaele (2008).

His most recent television work was his 2009 portrayal of Shawnee leader Tecumseh in the PBS series We Shall Remain (below).

As accomplished as he is as an actor, it has been dance that has remained central to Greyeyes' life and work as an artist. In 1996 he collaborated with the filmmaking partnership of director Kent Monkman and producer Gisèle Gordon to create a dance work entitled A Nation is Coming.

A Nation is Coming draws upon prophecy to reflect on the radical advances in technology and diseases that have affected Aboriginal people in the past and the present. Against images of fire, disease, and the bleakness of modern civilisation, a Ghost Dancer is resurrected: a symbol of the ill-fated prophecy that promised the restoration of the vanishing buffalo herds and the old way of life. The dancer (Michael Greyeyes) assumes different forms as he finds his way through memories and visions; some are apocalyptic and full of dread, while others, like the Ojibway prophecy of the Eighth Fire are more hopeful and suggest a new beginning.

More recently, Greyeyes has created from thine eyes. Described as an "epic dance-theatre piece," from thine eyes opened last year's DanceWorks season at Toronto’s Enwave Theatre and deals with moving on from this life into the next.

In her review of the piece for the Globe and Mail, Paula Citron writes:

The story of from thine eyes began in the 2008 Cree opera Pimooteewin: The Journey, for which [Greyeyes] was both director and choreographer. The opera deals with a trickster and an eagle who visit the land of the dead to bring the spirits back to the land of the living.

He wanted to explore the topic in more detail. “Aboriginals believe that a new consciousness is required for a new journey. We need new eyes if we are to move forward,” he says. “What truth do people see at the moment of their deaths? The title is from the Koran, ‘Lift the veil from thine eyes,’ denoting that new understanding.”

Also in 2011, Greyeyes directed Nakai Theatre’s The River by Judith Rudakoff, David Skelton and Joseph Tisiga. The play is about the lives of people living on the fringe, and is inspired by the notion of "ghost populations," which Rudakoff says are "everything from homeless people to alien abductees."

In Roxanne Stasyszyn's Yukon News article about the piece, Greyeyes and The River's writers discuss their work further:

“Everybody has a story worth telling,” said Greyeyes. “What this play does is take voices and characters that don’t normally have a place on Canadian stages and says, ‘The stage is yours.’”

But it’s not political, Greyeyes said. “It’s completely humanistic; meaning, politics may be the result of things, but what it says is, every character in this play is compelling.”

The play will be a success if even just one audience member leaves able to empathize with someone they would normally dismiss, said Skelton.

But there won’t be any speeches, lectures or preaching in the play. The way the script is written is very informal, said Skelton. “It’s like sitting around a fire and shooting the shit,” he said. “And then for some reason, somebody starts to talk about something really important.”

In a society where there's a glut of trivial entertainment packaged and pumped out for mindless consumption, I'm thankful that there are artists like Michael Greyeyes who creatively highlight and explore important ideas, issues and realities.

Recommended Off-site Links:
An Interview with Michael Greyeyes – Indigenous Arts Network.
No Thanks for Thanksgiving – Robert Jensen (AlterNet, November 21, 2012).
Going Cold Turkey on Black Friday – Heidi Schlumpf (National Catholic Reporter, November 13, 2012).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Something to Think About – November 24, 2011
Something Special for Indigenous Peoples Day
Capitalism on Trial
R.I.P. Neoclassical Economics
John Pilger on Resisting Empire
Superstorm Sandy: A 'Wake-Up Call' on Climate Change
Let's Also Honor the "Expendables"
The Premise of All Forms of Dance
The Trouble with the Male Dancer: Challenging Notions of Masculinity
The Soul of a Dancer

Monday, November 19, 2012

Quote of the Day

. . . [T]he Catholic Church hierarchy, as evidenced by [a recent editorial by Fr. Federico Lombardi, Director of the Vatican Television Centre], continues to deny the distinction between religious rites and public rights. No one is telling the Church what to do within its magisterium (misleading rhetoric about “religious freedom” notwithstanding). I would appreciate it if it would stop telling New York what to do with ours. We’re not changing religious definitions; we’re expanding secular domains of equality. Of course, I understand that such distinctions may fly in the face of a thousand years of Church teaching. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t real.

Ironically, if we followed the Church’s theocratic logic, we’d validate polygamy first, same-sex marriage second. After all, polygamy was a biblical value, practiced by Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon… the list goes on. If religious values (which, according to dogma, are absolutely and objectively true) are to dictate civil laws, presumably we should re-institute polygamy, strip married women of all rights against their husbands, and regard women as chattel to be purchased: all of which are part of the Biblical definition of marriage.

Really, though, what’s most amusing about such reductio ad absurdum arguments is how weirdly dated they already feel. Come on, really? You’re still telling me that same-sex marriage is going to destroy traditional marriage and lead to wild sexual anarchy? As if. The only thing thousands of boring, ordinary gay marriages have changed is the demand for matching suits. The sky just hasn’t fallen, and it’s not going to . . .

– Jay Michaelson
"No Father, The Gay Sky Isn’t Falling"
Religion Dispatches
November 19, 2012

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Doug Mataconis on the Bishops, Religious Freedom, and Living in a Civil Society
Quote of the Day – September 6, 2012
Responding to Whiny Catholic Bishops Who Cry 'Victim'
Persecuted 'Enemies of the State'? Or Just Sore Losers?
What Part of Jesus' Invitation to "Be Not Afraid" Don't the Bishops Get?
Marriage: "Part of What is Best in Human Nature"
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
Dale Carpenter on the "Win-Win" Reality of Gay Marriage

Image: Kristen Solberg.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Prayer of the Week

Forever Oneness,
who sings to us in silence,
who teaches us through each other,
guide my steps with strength and wisdom.
May I see the lessons as I walk,
and honor the purpose of all things.
Help me touch with respect,
and always speak from behind my eyes.
Let me observe, not judge.
May I cause no harm, and leave
music and beauty after my visit.
When I return to Forever,
may the circle be closed
and the spiral be broader.

– Australian Aboriginal ritual chant

Image: Jamie Gulpilil in Ten Canoes (2006).

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Quote of the Day

The Archbishop has issued a statement in the wake of the defeat of his relentless campaign to make sure gay and lesbian citizens of Minnesota will never get equal protection of the civil marriage laws. He says “It has never been the aim of the Catholic Church to alienate anyone.”

Let me try to understand this: He wants to deprive some people of any possibility of living a socially accepted, legally sanctioned, married life, and they are not supposed to take that personally?

He initiated an eight year attack, pitting a heterosexual majority against a homosexual minority to prevent the democratic process from working in the minority’s favor. This attempt to limit marriage by constitutional definition ultimately failed on November 6, 2012. Resisting it took a tremendous expenditure of time, energy, and money. The moral cost may never be recovered. And he never meant to alienate anyone?

. . . [I]sn’t it outrageous now for the Archbishop to say in his statement that this was a normal give and take in the democratic process? He sees himself as a good citizen who has done his best in a fair and honorable contest for the common good. I think it is instead like a man who has brutally tried to cripple and rob you, coming to shake hands after he has finally failed, congratulating himself on his attempt on your life. He even says he isn’t finished with you yet. But try not to be alienated. . . .

– Paula Ruddy
"The Archbishop's Statement on His Marriage Amendment Defeat"
The Progressive Catholic Voice
November 12, 2012

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Both 'Marriage Amendment' AND 'Voter Photo ID Amendment' Rejected by Minnesota Voters

Related Off-site Links:
A Call for Healing in Minnesota – Eric Fought (, November 12, 2012).
Chastened Catholic Bishops Told They Have to Reform Themselves – David Gibson (The Washington Post, November 12, 2012).
Bishops Stay Course on Gay Marriage Fight – Rachel Zoll (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, November 12, 2012).
Amendment Defeat Opens Marriage Conversation, and the Possibility That DFL-Controlled Legislature Could Discuss Same-Sex Marriage This Year – Alexi Gusso (Twin Cities Daily Planet, November 12, 2012).
Is There a Political Plan B for the Bishops? – Thomas J. Reese (National Catholic Reporter, November 11, 2012).
Pastor Mike Tegeder Challenges Archbishop Nienstedt's "Bullying Behavior"The Progressive Catholic Voice (October 5, 2010).
Quote of the DayThe Progressive Catholic Voice (November 8, 2012).

Image: Björn Burton.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Photo of the Day

Notes today's Star Tribune:

Monday's mere two- to three-tenths of an inch of snow was paltry by Minnesota standards, but timing was everything, said Chris Franks, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Chanhassen.

The light, fluffy snow began falling around 7 a.m. and quickly intensified as it moved over the metro area. It was the first measurable amount of the season, and combined with the subfreezing temperatures allowed it to accumulate [as ice] on the roads . . . turning what might have been an easy Veterans Day commute into a calamity of collisions and miles-long traffic tie-ups.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Just in Time for Winter
First Snowfall (2010)
A Snowy October Day (2009)
Winter Garden
Northwoods (2008)
A Snowy December – with an Aussie Connection (2007)

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Dancers Among Us

The Wild Reed series on dance continues with some beautiful images from photographer Jordan Matter's project, 'Dancers Among Us' – a project my friend Brian alerted me to earlier this week.

Matter began his project in 2009 and recently a book of his work has been published.

In 2010, Matter shared with My Modern Metropolis website the inspiration for 'Dancers Among Us':

The idea for this body of work came during a performance by the Paul Taylor Dance Company. I was inspired by the dancers’ stunning combination of artistry and athleticism. Their commitment obviously extends beyond the rehearsals and performances – it is a way of life. I began to photograph these dancers as everyday people. In the photographs they are away from the stage, yet they cannot leave dance behind. As they go about their daily routines, they do so as dancers. This speaks to the power of a passionate life; if you’re fully invested in something, it is always with you.

The "power of a passionate life"! I love it!

And I see it as totally related to the spiritual life; to a life of authenticity and thus deep connection to self, God and others. I like to think that the conscious decision to cultivate such a life (a decision we often make on a daily basis!) is always cause for celebration.

I see a joyful and celebratory quality in Matter's images. And given the time of celebration that many of us are currently experiencing, this makes the sharing of these images this evening all the more special. Enjoy!

Dancers are storytellers. They’re trained to capture passion with their bodies. The often create a fantasy world or offer us a deeper look into familiar settings. They bring to life what we feel but what most of us, lacking their artistry and athleticism, are unable to express physically.

– Jordan Matter

Recommended Off-site Link:
Dancers Among Us Captures Moments of Unexpected Grace – Sarah Kaufman (The Washington Post, October 19, 2012).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Dancer and the Dance
The Premise of All Forms of Dance
The Soul of a Dancer
Gay Men and Modern Dance
The Church and Dance
The Trouble with the Male Dancer (Part 1: Redefining Notions of Masculinity)
The Trouble with the Male Dancer (Part 2: Homophobia and the Male Dancer)
The Trouble with the Male Dancer (Part 3: Homosexuality and the Male Dancer)
Recovering the Queer Artistic Heritage
Dark Matters
The Naked Truth . . . in Dance and in Life
Seeking Balance

Images: Jordan Matter.