Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Prayer of the Week

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so longs my soul for You,
O Beloved.
My soul thirsts for the Beloved,
for the Living Water.

When may I come and behold
your face?

– Excerpted from Psalm 41
as translated by Nan C. Merrill
in Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
"More Lovely Than the Dawn": God as Divine Lover
"Then I Shall Leap Into Love . . ."
Prayer of the Week – April 4, 2011
Prayer of the Week – December 9, 2010
The Glimpse of His Face at Morning
The Soul Within the Soul
In the Garden of Spirituality – Hazrat Inayat Khan
Quote of the Day – November 16, 2011

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Quote of the Day

I look forward to hearing an enthusiastic response from Archbishop John Nienstedt as he welcomes, through newly opened eyes, Pope Francis’ firm rebuke of the church’s narrow and judgmental focus on controversial social issues, to the detriment of respect for the profound law of love handed down from Jesus.

I know the archbishop holds his obligation of obedience to the pope in high regard. So I trust we will begin to see a redirection of energy from doctrinal authority to appreciation of personal conscience as he refocuses our attention to authentic matters of spirit and creates the mandated new atmosphere within the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Archbishop Nienstedt has shown himself to be a man of relentless vitality for causes he chooses to champion. It could be breathtaking to watch this shepherd evolve as a man of true vision, rather than religious myopia.

– Shawn Gilbert
Letter to the Editor of the Pioneer Press (St. Paul)
September 24, 2013

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Quote of the Day – September 19, 2013
Progressive Perspectives on Archbishop Nienstedt's Anti-Gay Activism

Related Off-site Links:

Pope's Blunt Remarks Pose Challenge for Bishops – Rachel Zoll (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, September 21, 2013).
Here's How America Feels After the Pope's Landmark Statement on Gays and Abortion – Jaweed Kaleem (The Huffington Post, September 24, 2013).
Pope Francis is a Liberal Catholic – William Saletan (Slate via the Star Tribune, September 21, 2013).
The Pope's Radical Whisper – Frank Bruni (New York Times via the Progressive Catholic Voice, September 22, 2013).
Local Parishioners — Those Who See Big Change, Some Who Don't — Respond to Pope – Beth Hawkins (MinnPost, September 23, 2013).

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Art of Surrender

There is something tremendously important and tremendously difficult at stake in surrendering ourselves to another human being. This surrender has the capacity both to destroy us and to redeem us. We hate to be compelled to surrender any aspect of ourselves to other people. And yet, we suffer terribly when we refuse to open up the boundaries of our selves to the impact of other selves. In acts of surrender we often are brought to the realization that we neither control nor fully understand the boundaries of the self anyway. This realization is both terrifying and liberating. It cannot be faced. It must be faced.

– Morgan Meis
"The Storytellers"
The Smart Set
September 9, 2013

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Love as Exploring Vulnerability
The Longing for Love: God's Primal Beatitude
The Holy Pleasure of Intimacy
Liberated to Be Together
Passion, Tide and Time
"I Want You to Become a Part of Me – Each to Become a Part of the Other"
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
Human Sex: Weird and Silly, Messy and Sublime
Getting It Right
Quote of the Day – September 11, 2012
Your Scent I Know
Mmm, that Sweet Surrender
In the Garden of Spirituality – Diarmuid Ó Murchú
Jesus and the Art of Letting Go

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Photo of the Day

Image: The reeds of Diamond Lake on the last day of summer. (Photo: Michael J. Bayly)

Related Off-site Link: Friends of Diamond Lake

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Quote of the Day

We should not think that 'thinking with the church' means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church. . . . [The] church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. . . . If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies. I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.

– Pope Francis
Quoted in "A Big Heart Open to God: The Exclusive Interview with Pope Francis
by Antonio Spadaro, S.J.
America, September 30, 2013

Related Off-site Links:
Pope Francis' Bombshell Interview with America: A Church That is "the Home of All, Not a Small Chapel" – 10 Initial Reflection Points – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, September 19, 2013).
Pope Rejects Church of 'Small-Minded Rules' in Interview – John L. Allen Jr (National Catholic Reporter, September 19, 2013).
Listening to the Pope – James Martin, SJ (America, September 19, 2013).
Top Five Justice Quotes from the New Interview with Pope Francis – Mike Jordan Laskey (Millennial, September 19, 2013).
This Extraordinary Pope, Ctd – Andrew Sullivan (The Dish, September 19, 2013).
Pope Francis Distances Himself Further from the Right in New Interview – Peter Montgomery (Religion Dispatches, September 19, 2013).
Pope Francis Comes Out of the Closet: "I Have Never Been a Right-Winger" – Michelangelo Signorile (The Huffington Post, September 19, 2013).
Pope to Right-Wingers: I'm Not One of You – Catholics United (September 19, 2013).
Pope Francis is a Liberal – William Saletan (Slate, September 19, 2013).
Pope Francis: Catholic Church Must Focus Beyond "Small-Minded Rules"CBS News (September 19, 2013).
Church Must Find Balance, Pope Says, Or Fall Like Cards – Krishnadev Calamur (NPR, September 19, 2013).
Pope Bluntly Faults Church’s Focus on Gays and Abortion – Laurie Goodstein (New York Times, September 19, 2013).
Pope Francis: Church Too "Obsessed" with GaysThe Huffington Post (September 19, 2013).
Pope Francis: Church Can't "Interfere" with Gays – Eric Marrapodi and Daniel Burke (CNN, September 19, 2013).
Pope Francis' Welcome Signals a New Dawn of Hope for LGBT People and Allies – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, September 19, 2013).
Pope Francis Presses "Reset Button" on Decades of Hateful and Hurtful Anti-LGBT Vitriol – Charlie Joughin (Human Rights Campaign, September 19, 2013).
Faith Leaders Respond to Pope Francis' Comments on LGBT People – National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (September 19, 2013).
A New Era at the Vatican? – Meredith Clark (MSNBC, September 19, 2013).

Five Things We Learned About Pope Francis from His Blockbuster Interview – David Gibson (Religion News Service, September 20, 2013).
Pope Francis on Why and How the Church Must Change – Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, September 20, 2013).
A Pope for the Catholic Middle – John Allen Jr (National Catholic Reporter, September 20, 2013).
The Pope's Remarkable Interview – Michael Sean Winters (National Catholic Reporter, September 20, 2013).
The End of the Catholic Church's Pelvic Zone Orthodoxy – Daniel C. Maguire (Religion Dispatches, September 20, 2013).
In Madison, Catholics, Bishop Respond to Pope's Remarks About Gays – Jennifer Hoff (Channel 3000, September 20, 2013).
Pope Blasts Abortion After Decrying Focus on Rules – Nicole Winfield (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, September 20, 2013).
Fr. James Martin on the Pope’s Interview: "We Knew We Had Spiritual Dynamite"Time (September 20, 2013).
William D. Lindsey's Theological Reflection on Pope Francis' Jesuit Interview: "God Is Encountered Walking, Along the Path"Bilgrimage (September 20, 2013).
Pope Francis Says More Nice Words About LGBTs, Changes Nothing – John Becker (Huffington Post, September 20, 2013).
With His Remarks on Sexual Morality, a Surprise Pope Keeps on Surprising – Jim Yardley and Elisabetta Povoledo (New York Times, September 20, 2013).
Thank God – Pope Francis Tells Catholics They Need an Attitude Adjustment – James Salt (Fox News, September 20, 2013).
Pope Seeks Historic Easing of Rigid Catholic Doctrine – Jean-Louis De La Vaissiere (AFP via Yahoo! News, September 20, 2013).
Minnesota Catholics Weigh In on Pope's Criticism of Church's Emphasis on Abortion, Gays – Rose French (Star Tribune, September 20, 2013).
What The Church Needs More Than a "Good Pope" – Mary E. Hunt (Religion Dispatches, September 20, 2013).
Pope's Blunt Remarks Pose Challenge for Bishops – Rachel Zoll (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, September 21, 2013).
The Pope's Radical Whisper – Frank Bruni (New York Times via The Progressive Catholic Voice, September 22, 2013).
Can the Pope Help End the Culture Wars? – Robert Christian (Washington Post, September 23, 2013).
Twin Cities Parishioners — Those Who See Big Change, Some Who Don't — Respond to Pope – Beth Hawkins (MinnPost, September 23, 2013).
What the Pope Really Said – Phyllis Zagano (National Catholic Reporter, September 25, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
What It Means to Be Catholic
The Catholic Challenge
The Treasure and the Dross
Rosemary Haughton and the "True Catholic Enterprise"
A Return to the Spirit
Roger Haight on the Church We Need
Time for a Church for Grown-Ups
Mary Hunt: "Catholicism is a Very Complex Reality"
Why I Take Hope in Pope Francis' Statement on Gay Priests
Getting It Right
In the Garden of Spirituality – Ron Rolheiser
Hildegard of Bingen's All-Embracing God
Reflections on Babel and the “Borders Within”
Pan’s Labyrinth: Critiquing the Cult of Unquestioning Obedience

Image: Pope Francis embraces a drug addict during his visit to the St. Francis Hospital in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 24, 2013. (Photo: Luca Zennaro/AFP/Getty Images)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hildegard of Bingen's All-Embracing God


Just as a circle embraces all that is within it,
so does the God-head embrace all.

No one has the power to divide this circle,
to surpass it, or to limit it.

– Hildegard of Bingen

Related Off-site Links:
Honoring Hildegard of Bingen – Lynne Smith, OSB (Holy Wisdom Monastery, May 11, 2012).
Hildegard of Bingen – Aisha Langer (Heroines of History).
Hildegard of Bingen and Richardis: Medieval Mystic and the Woman She Loved – Kittredge Cherry (Jesus in Live Blog, September 17, 2013).
Hildegard of

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
At the Cathedral of St. Paul, Rainbow Sashes and a Circle of Love
Drawing the Circle Wide
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
"Never Can We Be Separated"
In Mychal Judge's Heart "There Was Room for Everybody"
Trusting God's Generous Invitation
"Joined at the Heart": Robert Thompson on Christianity and Sufism
See the World!
Celebrating Our Common Heritage
Quote of the Day – June 12, 2011
Responding to Excommunication
My Lunch with a "Medicine Bearer"
Prayer of the Week – November 14, 2012
And Love is Lord of All

Image: "Cultivating the Cosmic Tree" by Hildegard of Bingen.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Remembering Callas

They can't just applaud the legend.
After all . . . what is a legend?
I think I'm a very human human being.

If I wasn't human I probably
would have sung better.

– Maria Callas

Today marks the 36th anniversary of the death of Maria Callas (1923-1977), an American-born Greek soprano who is regarded as one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the twentieth century.

This evening I remember and celebrate Maria's life by sharing (with added images and links) an insightful and, at times, humorous article by Michael White. It was written in 2000, a week before the auctioning in Paris of numerous items once owned by or associated with Maria Callas. I first shared this article online as part of Callas as Medea, my website dedicated to Medea, the 1969 film Callas made with Pier Paolo Pasolini.


Callas: A Life for Sale
Michael White

Piled high in boxes in a warehouse in a Paris back street sit the various remnants of a life that was notorious, exotic, tragic and apparently quite disqualified from the normal postmortem prerogative of Rest in Peace. They're not especially exciting remnants, unless you thrill to the prospect of secondhand bed sheets, coat-hangers and kitchen equipment. And when they all come up for auction next weekend [December 2, 2000], it will be more like a grand garage sale than the kind of event normally hosted at the chic Parisian auction rooms Drouot-Montaigne – with table lamps in doubtful taste, odd sticks of furniture, and (for the seriously voyeuristic) bras and stockings and a Christian Dior latex girdle: lace appliqué with two satin bows. Yours, sir (it will almost certainly be sir), for an estimated $1000. What sir will do with all this when he gets it home is best not thought about.

The sale, of course, is squalid. Reprehensible. But it will make good business, because everything here belonged to one Cecilia Sofia Anna Maria Kalogeropoulou: otherwise known as Maria Callas and the most celebrated singer of modern times.

Had she lived to a reasonable age, next weekend would have been marked, not by the fall of a hammer on her underwear, but by celebrations for her 77th birthday. [Note: Callas would have turned 90 this December] As things turned out, she died at the pitifully early age of 53, alone, withdrawn, and desperate for privacy – all of which makes this raw exposure of the contents of her drawers and wardrobes rather cruel.

But then, most of Maria Callas' life was lived in the public domain. The details of her adversarial relationships with opera-house intendants, fellow artists and family ("I wouldn't give her the lice from my hair," she said of her estranged, near-destitute mother) were bus-stop conversation matter in the 1960s – rivalled only by the scandal of her extramarital association with Aristotle Onassis [above right] and the minutiae of their life together on the yacht Christina. Guests reputedly bathed in champagne or, more conventionally, drank it from bar stools upholstered in the foreskins of whales. How many foreskins it took to upholster a bar stool was all part of the mystique. As none have surfaced in the auction (too bad) we shall never know.

In the pursuit of thoroughness, I asked the auctioneers about those stools, and got a vague reply to the effect that they were never Callas property. But you could say the same for other items waiting for the hammer in those boxes, including Lot 19, a score of Verdi's Don Carlos stamped "Library Copy" (upper estimate $1710), and Lot 10, a bible "placed by the Gideons" which the diva presumably lifted from a hotel (estimate $570).

But gathering together the 400-odd other lots to which she clearly did have some legitimate claim, it's possible even from the marginalia (as most of this stuff is) to build a picture of a curiously one-off life. Beginning with Lot 135, which is a framed certificate recording the fact that in 1959 Callas was made an honorary citizen of Dallas, Texas. The fact that Lot 136 is a similar certificate, awarding her honorary citizenship of Dallas in 1968, suggests that she, or they, forgot the previous occasion. But no matter. Callas was a product of America, born in New York in 1923, to immigrant parents who had only just arrived from Greece and whose marriage didn't last. She was consequently shipped back to Athens, where she built a teenage profile singing Toscas and Fidelios for the German troops in occupation through the war years.

Lot 7 is a collection of letters that passed between Callas and the Italian conductor Tullio Serafin [with Callas at right] who was the man behind her first big break: a 1947 Verona performance of Ponchielli's La Gioconda that marked the launch of her international career.

But in 1947 she was a different kind of voice to the one that brought her ultimate, enduring fame a few years later. It was Serafin, again, who engineered the change. Callas had been trained as a soprano d'agilità, which is to say she had the ability for aerial embellishment, but was rooted nonetheless in heavy, earthbound roles such as Wagner's Isolde and Brunnhilde: the female vocal equivalent of beefcake.

Her Italian repertory included Turandot, which takes some muscle too, and she continued singing things like that throughout the 1950s. But at the same time Tullio Serafin was steering her toward more decorative bel canto roles – the nightingales you find in Donizetti and Bellini - and for a while she did both the heavy and the decorative side by side: which is against the supposed rules of vocal well-being, and could well be why her voice gave out as quickly as it did.

She was in peak condition for no more than 15 years. By the late l960s, there was little left but squall.

But that short-lived peak had important consequences for the art of singing. Callas carried through the weight and muscle of her old roles to the delicacy of her new ones, empowering the nightingales with a strength and depth of feeling nobody had thought to offer them in modern times. She gave them credibility as drama. And the supreme, showpiece vehicle for what she could do was Bellini's Norma: her greatest role, which she officially recorded twice and sang on stage no less than 84 times.

Lot 105 in the Paris auction is a photograph of Callas in her role as Norma, signed not by the diva herself. but by her husband Giovanni Battista Meneghini, a wealthy Italian industrialist some years her senior. And though it's odd for a husband to sign his wife's publicity shots – you'd think he was attempting to secure his own role in her life for posterity – the wretched Meneghini had good reason not to feel secure. In fact before too long he was obliterated.

When he married her in 1949, Callas had yet to hit the headlines and was still a plump and not particularly attractive woman.

In a few years all that changed however. She lost weight. She acquired the sculpted beauty of the many portraits in the auction where she looks like an Egyptian queen: the hair pulled back, the cheek-bones riding high, the eyebrows heavily defined, and lashes curling sharp as scimitars out to the corners of the face.

Above all, she discovered fashion – guided by a couturier called Madam Biki, a granddaughter of Puccini who knew a thing or two about 1950s European chic.

Most of the items in the auction are the coats, hats, gloves and shoes in which the off-stage iconography of La Divina (as the papers called her) was created. Endearingly, there are old furs given a new lease of life as linings for designer coats (Callas was clearly not above recycling her possessions). More macabre is a great pile of wigs, hairpieces and appendages that look like dangling rats' tails, but were meant to give her head a fuller, rounder shape. And ominously – in Lots 261 and 262 – there are the boating shoes she wore on the Christina, where Onassis wooed and won her under Meneghini's nose.

Other things, such as letters sent on the Christina's headed paper, bear witness to the way she then abandoned her career, devoting herself so totally to the vacuous life of a rich man's adornment, that when Onassis dropped her, ruthlessly and publicly in 1968, her world collapsed.

Refusing all further stage work, her only remaining performances were a handful of master classes in New York and an agreement to bail out Giuseppe di Stefano's gambling debts by accompanying the tenor on an ill-fated recital tour in the early 1970s [left]. By which time the voice had long gone.

In truth, her professional life began to fall apart as early as the 1950s when, after a succession of well-publicised scraps, she was sacked by the Metropolitan Opera in New York and squeezed out of her home base at La Scala, Milan. The point of no return was probably the night she walked out on a gala performance of Norma, attended by the Italian president and the glitterati of Rome. It was neither forgotten nor forgiven and fuelled Callas's enduring reputation for tempestuously unprofessional behaviour.

But hindsight suggests that she was in fact professional to a fault and more often the victim than the perpetrator of the battles. On the night of that Rome gala, she was ill – genuinely ill and attempted to explain this to her audience. Lot 65 in the auction is a note, scribbled by Meneghini on the back of an envelope in make-up pencil, to be read out on stage. For some reason it never was: hence the furore, which scarred Callas so badly that she kept the 700 or so letters of support she received the following week from her fans. The letters now comprise Lot 67. Estimate $5000.

The retention of those letters says something about her vulnerability – as does Lot 89 (a pair of owl-like spectacles: she was shortsighted and accordingly saw very little on stage, least of all the conductor) and Lot 384 (a pack of tarot cards, which presumably failed to reveal the fate in store for her).

But then, perhaps they did. There was an element of self-will in the sorrows of Maria Callas, and it made her a great artist for much the same reasons that she was a difficult woman. She demanded everything and more. And if she was tough on others, she was tougher on herself – which is why the voice could never be the seamlessly beautiful instrument bel canto singers are supposed to cultivate.

Her personality was too volatile, her approach to singing too visceral, too self-sacrificing in its love affair with risk. Yet in the mythology of the performing arts, this is just what audiences ask for. We expect the diva to be both a goddess and a slave: to give her life for art. We thrill to the dimension of that sacrifice. And Callas dutifully obliged. She lived her life like one of her own tragic heroines who, fulfilling the standard requirement of women in opera, sing, suffer and die. When death finally came, it was so Wagnerian – she seems to have simply faded away – it could have been scripted.

I used to know a record company executive who claimed to have seen Callas on her death-bed and fought the temptation to snip off a lock of her hair, believing (as he told me) that she should "go to the grave intact". He needn't have been quite so scrupulous. Lot 202 next weekend is a mangy-looking swatch of slightly greying chestnut tresses. Going for a song. Or failing that, $2860.
– Michael White

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Callas Remembered
Callas Went Away
Re-Visioning Callas
Maria Callas – "Ava Maria"

Recommended Off-site Links:

Icon: Maria Callas
Re-Visioning Callas
Callas as Medea

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Rendezvous in Truro

I may have finished my re-reading of all twelve Poldark novels, Winston Graham's acclaimed series of historical fiction set in Cornwall at the turn-of-the-eighteenth-century, but I've decided to continue highlighting these engaging books at The Wild Reed by periodically sharing my thoughts on them and, more importantly, excerpts from them.

Regular followers of this blog may recall that I've previously shared a number of posts featuring excerpts that highlight Verity's story from the Poldark novels. This particular series of Poldark-related posts starts here. (For a more general introduction to the Poldark novels and my interest in them, click here.)

Today's post continues Verity's story. But first, a brief recap: Verity Poldark, cousin of Ross Poldark, the main character in the saga, has had her romance with Captain James Blamey quashed by her overbearing father and brother. Captain Blamey has returned to his lonely seafaring life and Verity has resigned herself to a life of loss and loneliness. Two years have passed, and Ross' young wife, Demelza, who has become good friends with Verity, decides to intervene, secretly journeying to Falmouth to see Captain Blamey. Their meeting does not go well. Several weeks later, however, when out walking near her home, Demelza is startled by the appearance of Captain Blamey. She agrees to arrange a seemingly random meeting between him and Verity in Truro. She later writes to him with details, informing him that on Thursday, October 20, "in the forenoon," she and Verity will be at Mistress Trelask's silk mercer shop in Kenwen Street.

The following excerpt from Winston Graham's Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall, 1788-1790 continues the story.

The twentieth of October was a windy day with dust and dead leaves blowing and the promise of rain. Demelza was on edge, as if she had a long-distance coach to catch; and Verity was amused by her wish to get to Truro by eleven at the latest. Demelza said that it wasn't nervousness for herself but that Julia had been restless in the night and she suspected she was feverish.

At that Verity suggested they might postpone the visit: they could very easily ride in another day when it was more convenient. It would have suited her, for the date had come round for the quarterly meeting of the Grambler shareholders. But Demelza now seemed more than ever keen to go.

This time they had Bartle for company, for Jud was growing ever more wayward.

Halfway there it began to rain, a thin damp drizzle moving across the country like a mesh of fine silk, slower than the low bags of cloud which spun it. About three miles from Truro they saw a crowd of people stretching across the road. It was so unusual to see many people about in the middle of the day that they reined in.

"I think tis a pile o' miners, ma'am," said Bartle. "Mebbe tis a feast day we've forgot."

Verity went forward a little doubtfully. These people did not look as if they were celebrating.

A man was standing on a cart talking to a compact group gathered around him. He was some distance away, but it was clear that he was giving expression to a grievance. Other groups of people sat on the ground or talked among themselves. There were as many women as men among them, all poorly dressed and some with young children. They looked angry and cold and desperate. A good many were actually in the lane, which here ran between clearly defined hedges, and hostile looks met the two well-dressed women on horseback with their well-fed groom.

Verity put a bold front on it and led the way slowly through: and silently they were watched and sullenly.

Presently the last were left behind.

"Phhh!" said Demelza. "Who were they, Bartle?"

"Miners from Idless an' Chacewater, I bla' These are poor times, ma'am."

Demelza edged her horse up to Verity's. "Were you scairt?"

"A little. I thought they might upset us."

Demelza was silent for some moments. "I mind once when we were short of corn in Illugan. We had potatoes an' water for a week—and mortal few potatoes."

For the moment her attention had been diverted from the plot on hand, but as they reached Truro she forgot the miners and only thought of Andrew Blamey and what she had engineered.


Truro wore its usual Thursday morning appearance, a little untidier than most days because of the cattle market of the afternoon before. They left Bartle in the centre of the town and made their way on foot, picking a fastidious path over the cobbles and through the mud and refuse.

There was no sign of a stocky figure in a blue-laced coat, and they went into the little dress shop. Demelza was unusually fussy this morning; but at length Verity persuaded her to pick a dark bottle-green cloth which would not clash with any of the clothes she already had and which greatly suited the colour of her skin.

When it was all over Demelza asked the time. The seamstress went to see, and it was just noon. Well . . . she'd done her part. She could do no more. Do doubt the date was wrong and he was still at sea.

The little bell in the shop pinged noisily and her heart leapt, but it was only a Negro page boy to ask whether the Hon. Maria Agar's bonnet was finished.

Demelza lingered over some silk ribbons, but Verity was anxious to get her own shopping done. They had arranged to take a meal at Joan Pascoe's, an ordeal Demelza was not looking forward to, and there would be little time for shopping after that.

There were more people in the narrow street when they left the shop. A cart drawn by oxen was delivering ale at a nearby gin shop. Ten or twelve urchins, undersized, barefoot and scabby, and wearing men's discarded coats cut down and tied with string, were rioting among a pile of garbage. At the end of the street by the West Bridge a sober merchant had come to grief in the slippery mud and was being helped to his feet by two beggers. A dozen shopping women were out, most of them in clogs and with loops to their wrists to keep their skirts out of the dirt.

"Miss Verity," said a voice behind them.

Oh, God, thought Demelza, it has come at last.

For the previous installments in this series, see:
"Hers Would Be the Perpetual Ache of Loss and Loneliness"
Demelza Takes a Chance (Part 1)
Demelza Takes a Chance (Part 2)
Captain Blamey Comes A-Calling

For other previous Poldark-related posts, see:
Passion, Time and Tide
A "Useful Marriage" for Morwenna
A Sea Dragon of an Emotion . . . "Causing Half the Trouble of the World, and Half the Joy"
Into the Greenwood
"I Want You to Become a Part of Me – Each to Become a Part of the Other"

Opening image: "Old Kensington," believed to be one of the earliest paintings known of Truro, Cornwall.

Notes the website This is Cornwall:

Once thought to show part of London, at first glance viewers might struggle to locate this scene among the pavements and shops of the modern city. However, standing directly in front of the cathedral with the post office on the left, as the unknown artist did, it quickly becomes apparent that the unsigned work depicts High Cross, Truro, around the year 1800.

The church is the old St Mary's, with its spire and clock face. The later cathedral was built farther forward, filling most of the empty space visible in the painting and resulting in the demolition of various other buildings.

One surviving building which looks much the same as in the painting is the Assembly Rooms, built in 1787. Another fascinating aspect of the painting is the leat running through a channel, which is still there today.

The painting, in oils on canvas, is thought to be the work of an artist who was travelling from town to town at the end of the 18th century. During the 19th century it was sold as a view of old Kensington in London and went to a collection in Berkshire. By chance, a Cornishman happened to see it and recognised it as High Cross. This incident was reported in the Royal Cornwall Gazette on Boxing Day 1884. The painting has now been brought back to Cornwall and is for sale at the Lander Gallery in Lemon Street Market.

The gallery's Viv Hendra said: "There's a painting of another part of Truro at Trewithen House in Grampound, and my theory is that the same artist did it. They're exceptionally rare and must be the earliest paintings of the town. Part of the interest for us here is that the house to the left of the Assembly Rooms was home to our great-grandfather about a century after the picture was done."

Image 2: Norma Streader as Verity, Angharad Rees as Demelza and Jonathan Newth as Captain Blamey in the BBC television series Poldark (1975-1977).

Recommended Off-site Links:
Winston Graham's Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall – Kate Sherrod (Kate of Mind, May 3, 2013).
Winston Graham’s Demelza: Mistress Poldark, Herstory – Ellen Moody (Ellen and Jim Have a Blog, Two, July 18, 2010).
Winston Graham’s Demelza: A Young Woman’s Entrance Into the World – Ellen Moody (Ellen and Jim Have a Blog, Two, May 7, 2011).
The Official Winston Graham and Poldark Website

Friday, September 13, 2013

Shirley, Shirley, Shirley!

This evening for 'music night' at The Wild Reed I share my favorite version of a very well-known song. Yes, it's Shirley Bassey with "Killing Me Softly with His Song"!

But first, a little about this hauntingly beautiful song: It was composed in the early 1970s by Charles Fox with lyrics by Norman Gimbel. In 1973 it was a number-one hit for Roberta Flack. It's been subsequently remade by over 40 major recording artists – the most well-known being the Fugees, who had a huge international hit with the song in 1996.

The origins of the song's inspiration is disputed, as the following from Wikipedia notes:

Norman Gimbel came to California in the mid-1960s. He was introduced to the Argentinean-born composer Lalo Schifrin (then of Mission: Impossible fame) and began writing songs to a number of Schifrin's films. Both Gimbel and Schifrin made a suggestion to write a Broadway musical together, and Schifrin gave Gimbel an Argentinean novel to read as a possible idea. The book was never made into a musical, but in one of the chapters the principal character describes himself as sitting alone in a bar drinking and listening to an American pianist 'killing me softly with his blues.' Gimbel put the idea in his 'idea' book for use at a future time with a parenthesis around the word 'blues' and substituted the word 'song' instead.

According to Lori Lieberman, the artist who performed the original recording in 1972, the song was born of a poem she wrote after experiencing a strong reaction to the song “Empty Chairs,” written, composed, and recorded by Don McLean. She then related this information to Gimbel, who took her feelings and put them into words. Then, Gimbel passed the words on to Fox, who set them to music.

Fox himself, however, has specifically repudiated Lieberman's having input into the song's creation, saying: “We [i.e. Gimbel and Fox] wrote the song and [Lieberman] heard it and said it reminded her of how she felt at [a Don McLean] concert. Don McLean didn't inspire Norman [Gimbel] or me to write the song but even Don McLean thinks he's the inspiration for the song according to his official website!” However in a Daily News article about the song, Gimbel said: “Lori is only 20 and she really is a very private person," he said. “She told us about this strong experience she had listening to McLean. I had a notion this might make a good song so the three of us discussed it. We talked it over several times, just as we did with the rest of the numbers we wrote for the album and we all felt it had possibilities.”

Don McLean said he didn’t know the song described him, and when asked about it, he said “I’m absolutely amazed. I’ve heard both Lori’s and Roberta’s version and I must say I’m very humbled about the whole thing. You can’t help but feel that way about a song written and performed as well as this one is.”

Shirley Bassey recorded "Killing Me Softly with His Song" for her 1973 album, Never, Never, Never, an album that saw a peak in her career revival she was experiencing in the early 1970s. Notes Wikipedia:

The album's title track was also its lead single and reached No. 8 in the UK Charts. It remained in the top 50 for 19 weeks, becoming one of Bassey's biggest and most well-known hits. It was also her only single to make three US charts: No. 48 on the Billboard Hot 100; No. 8 on the Adult Contemporary Chart; and No. 67 on the R&B Chart. In the UK the album entered the top 10, peaking at No. 10 during a ten week run. It would go on to earn a silver disc. The album also was a hit in the US, peaking at No. 60 on the Billboard 200 amid positive reviews. It also hit No. 34 on the R&B Chart. Photography for the album was by Lord Snowdon.

And so without further ado, here's the wonderful Shirley Bassey with "Killing Me Softly with His Song" . . .

. . . I heard he sang a good song
I heard he had a style.
And so I came to see him
To listen for a while.
And there he was this young boy,
A stranger to my eyes.

Strumming my pain with his fingers,
Singing my life with his words.
Killing me softly with his song,
Killing me softly with his song.
Telling my whole life with his words,
Killing me softly with his song.

I felt all flushed with fever,
Embarrassed by the crowd.
I felt he found my letters
And read each one out loud.
I prayed that he would finish
But he just kept right on . . .

Strumming my pain with his fingers,
Singing my life with his words.
Killing me softly with his song,
Killing me softly with his song.
Telling my whole life with his words,
Killing me softly with his song.

He sang as if he knew me,
In all my dark despair.
And then he looked right through me
As if I wasn't there.
And he just kept on singing,
Singing clear and strong.

Strumming my pain with his fingers,
Singing my life with his words.
Killing me softly with his song,
Killing me softly with his song.
Telling my whole life with his words,
Killing me softly with his song.

For more of Shirley Bassey at The Wild Reed,see:
The Living Tree: Shirley Bassey and Me
Time of the Tigress
The Rhythm Divine
History Repeating
Oscar Highlights 2013
Quote of the Day – February 26, 2013

Quote of the Day

The recent forced resignations of the president and a teacher at Totino-Grace High School for being in same-sex relationships calls for the archdiocesan Roman Catholic educational institution to update the misleading statements on its website.

Its mission statement says that “we seek to provide a safe environment that places priority on mutual respect, self-discipline, and acknowledgment of our responsibility in the world community.”

Its diversity statement says: that the “Diversity and Inclusion Program is designed to both support students from culturally diverse groups as well as work with the entire community of students and staff to become more welcoming of diversity and more inclusive of all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, academic ability, sexual orientation, or economics.”

Even its statement about being a Catholic high school in the Lasallian tradition says: “We are committed to create and sustain respectful human relationships in community.”

These statements are patently false and may lead parents of prospective students to expect Totino-Grace to be an open and safe place to send their children for a quality education when, in fact, the school is dedicated to teaching – by example – the worst prejudices and biases promoted by the archdiocese.

– Steven Pederson
Star Tribune
September 13, 2013

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Thoughts on the Firing of Kristen Ostendorf
Truth Telling: The Greatest of Sins in a Dysfunction Church
Church Fires "Openly" Gay Music Director

Related Off-site Links:
Fired Minnesota Teacher Speaks Out on the Danger of Silence – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, September 13, 2013).
Fired After She Came Out to Colleagues, Totino-Grace Teacher Leaves Dissonance and Silence Behind – Jim Walsh (MinnPost, September 11, 2013).
Second Gay Teacher Leaves Totino-Grace – Jana Shortal (KARE 11 News, September 12, 2013).

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thoughts on the Firing of Kristen Ostendorf

One of the key quotes in Jim Walsh's excellent MinnPost story about English/religion teacher Kristen Ostendorf's recent firing from Totino-Grace Catholic High School after she came out to colleagues as gay and "happily in a relationship," was when Ostendorf simply acknowledged, "I can’t do it anymore."

The "it" Kristen is referring to is, of course, the living of a closeted life in her work environment – one that, until last month, had been the Catholic institution of Totino-Grace High School.

I think it's fair to say that at a very fundamental level, the vast majority of Catholic work environments are unhealthy environments. How can they not be when, in the final analysis, they must enforce the Catholic hierarchy's dysfunctional and unhealthy perspective on sexuality?

With wider society increasingly leading the way toward a much healthier perspective on sexuality (the advances in marriage equality being a prime example), it's little wonder that LGBT people within Catholic work environments are finding they "can't do it anymore." And nor should they.

Choosing a life of honesty and integrity

I've followed a number of cases were LGBT people have either resigned or been fired from Catholic institutions. And as difficult as the situation was initially for these folks, they've actually moved on to a much better place in their lives. For one thing, they're no longer closeted. And, let's be honest, why would we want anyone to remain in a situation where they can't be their true and full selves? That's a terrible way to live. I know as I lived it for many years. Oh, to be sure, we can justify it by saying something like, it's better to be "on the inside" doing what we can to help others.

Well, let me tell you, that only lasts so long. Ultimately, the best way we can help others, say, for example, young people at a Catholic school, is to live a life of honesty and integrity. That's what Kristen Ostndorf has chosen to do after eighteen years of being in a work environment that, as she says, required her to "hide and compromise and deny who I am."

I'm happy that Kristen is out of such an unhealthy environment. I'm sad that such environments still exist – especially within a faith community that claims inspiration from the life and message of Jesus. There's a major disconnect there, to be sure. This disconnect is something else that many gay people – Kriten Ostendorf included – are finding they can no longer embody in their work lives.

Young Catholics: Not buying the dysfunction of the hierarchy

I feel bad for those still trapped in this environment – the young people of Totino-Grace in particular. But I know that most young people are equipped with acute 'bull-shit' detectors, and that, accordingly, however the leadership of Totino-Grace and/or the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese try to spin this story, the students at Totino-Grace and elsewhere will see through it. Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if we hear about some subtle and not-so-subtle student-led protests, similar to ones we've witnessed elsewhere.

I also take hope in knowing that the positive and healthy messages young people receive today about gender and sexuality through various aspects of our culture, and often via their family and friends, greatly outweigh the negative and dysfunctional messages the Catholic hierarchy attempts to indoctrinate them with. Again, the incredible support for and success of marriage equality points to this reality. Young Catholics – indeed, Catholics in general – aren't buying the dysfunction of the hierarchy.

Fear and betrayal

Finally, I feel bad for those in leadership at Totino-Grace who fired Kristen. They must be feeling like shit . . . Well, I hope they're feeling like shit because it was a truly shitty thing they did. After all, Kristen was a friend and colleague they've known for eighteen years. Why the rush to fire her? Oh, sure, I get it that in the dysfunctional environment of a Catholic institution truth-telling is the greatest of sins, but why not wait until word got out about Kristen's "truth-telling" and the Archdiocese demanded her termination? If nothing else, this certainly would have given her more time to find another job. I can't believe that the leadership of Totino-Grace really supports and wants to enforce the hierarchy's erroneous and damaging sexual theology. Fear, I guess, is a powerful thing. Better to be seen to take action before being told to take action by those above you – even if it means treating a friend and colleague poorly and sending a terrible message to the young people of the school.

And what is this terrible message? Well, first, let's back up a minute. Did you know that in the late-1990s Totino-Grace was one of eight of eleven Catholic high schools of the Archdiocese that were part of the Safe Schools Initiative of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM)? How sad that the message the school is now sending its students is one that says: It is not safe to be a person of honesty and integrity, at least in a Catholic setting.

What a betrayal all round that message is.

And what a pity also that rather than fearing the wrath of the anti-gay Archbishop Nienstedt, the leadership at Totino-Grace couldn't find the strength and inspiration to emulate the gentle "Who am I to judge" spirit of Pope Francis?

They didn't, and as a result fear and betrayal won the day.

A place of acceptance and safety

But I remain hopeful. Life and love extend well beyond the various dysfunctional systems and environments of the Catholic hierarchy. Sure, I'll support those working to reform these systems and environments, but I also don't hesitate to direct and lead others to places of acceptance and safety beyond them.

My sense (and hope) is that like William Hudson, who resigned as Totino-Grace president earlier this year after revealing he was in a same-sex relationship, Kristen Ostendorf, despite the initial shock and uncertainly resulting from her firing, will soon find herself in a work environment of acceptance and safety.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Fired After She Came Out to Colleagues, Totino-Grace Teacher Leaves Dissonance and Silence Behind – Jim Walsh (MinnPost, September 11, 2013).
Second Gay Teacher Leaves Totino-Grace – Jana Shortal (KARE 11 News, September 12, 2013).
Totino-Grace President Resigns After Revealing Same-Sex Relationship – Anthony Lonetree (Star Tribune, July 2, 2013).
After Totino-Grace Exit, Bill Hudson Finds Home at Mounds Park Academy – Mila Koumpilova (Pioneer Press, September 5, 2013).
On Labor Day, Let’s Remember LGBT People Fired from Catholic Institutions – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, September 2, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – September 2, 2013
Truth Telling: The Greatest of Sins in a Dysfunctional Church
Church Fires "Openly" Gay Music Director
Compassion, Cristian Community, and Homosexuality
For the Record: CPCSM's Safe Schools Initiative
CPCSM and Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 1)
CPCSM and Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 2)
CPCSM and Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 3)
CPCSM and Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 4)
Thoughts on Archbishop Nienstedt
Progressive Perspectives on Archbishop Nienstedt's Anti-Gay Activism
Beyond the Hierarchy: The Blossoming of Liberating Catholic Insights on Sexuality
Knowing What to Do, Knowing Why to Stay

Image: Jim Walsh (MinnPost).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Something to Think About . . .


"Is there so much love in the world that we can
afford to discriminate against any kind of love?"

– Franciscan Fr. Mychal Judge

Related Off-site Links:
Mychal Judge, Gay Saint of 9/11 and Chaplain to New York Firefighters – Kittredge Cherry (Jesus in Love Blog, September 11, 2013).
Mychal, Pray for Us: 12 Years On – Thom (Faith in the 21st Century, September 11, 2013).
Tribute in Light a Source of Comfort, Hope on Anniversary of 9/11 – Jamie Manson (National Catholic Reporter, September 11, 2013).
Fallen 9/11 Priest Emerges as An Icon for Gay Catholics – Daniel Burke (Religion News Service via The Progressive Catholic Voice, September 1, 2011).
A Tower of Strength: An Excerpt of Michael Daly's New Book on Mychal JudgeDaily News (September 4, 2008).
Jon Stewart’s Touching Monologue After 9/11 Is What You Should Watch Today – Adrian Carrasquillo (BuzzFeed, September 11, 2013).
Kerry, Kissinger and the Other September 11 – Amy Goodman (, September 11, 2013).
Chile’s 9/11: 40 Years Since Pinochet’s U.S-Backed Coup – Natasha Hakimi (, September 11, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In Mychal Judge's Heart "There Was Room for Everybody"
Kittredge Cherry on Mychal Judge, the "Gay Saint of 9/11"
Before (and After) the Poison
Karen Armstrong on the 9/11 Attacks: A “Flagrant and Wicked Abuse of Religion”
Rebecca Solnit on How 9/11 Should Be Remembered
9/11: Seven Years On
Remembering September 11 and Its Aftermath
Let’s Also Honor the “Expendables”

Image: Mychal Judge gazes out to sea on Long Island before a ceremony in 2000 for the victims of TWA Flight 800. (Associated Press).

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

“Joined at the Heart”: Robert Thompson on Christianity and Sufism

One of my favorite books on spirituality is Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee’s Prayer of the Heart in Christian and Sufi Mysticism (The Golden Sufi Center, 2012). In commenting on this book, Franciscan priest and author Richard Rohr notes that, “As we recover more and more of the ancient contemplative traditions, we are finding immense similarities in goal, practice, and effects. At a mystical level, we are seemingly talking about the same experience, despite our different vocabularies and styles.”

Prayer of the Heart in Christian and Sufi Mysticism contains a foreword written by Cynthia Bourgeault (author of another favorite book of mine, The Wisdom Jesus). Bourgeault echoes Rohr’s observation when she writes that Vaughan-Lee’s book offers a “profound contribution” to what he understands as the “collective evolution of our hearts.” It's an evolution that’s bringing us all closer together, not further apart.

I mention all of this as it recently came to my attention (thanks to my friend Brian) that a key part of Bourgeault’s foreword to Vaughan-Lee’s book is quoted in “Joined at the Heart: Imagining Christianity and Sufism,” a fascinating article by Robert Thompson. At one point Thompson takes Bourgeault’s wise observation regarding Christianity and Sufism and fleshes it out within the context of his own article. Given my deep interest in and journey on the mystical path that is shared by both Christianity and Sufism, I happily share the following excerpt from Thompson’s scholarly piece.

[To say that] “Christianity began as a form of what later is called Sufism,” is [to] suggest that “Christianity” (in its reality as opposed to its name) did not originate in the first century of the Common Era and that “Sufism” (in its reality as opposed to its name) did not originate within Islam. They are both much older and we don’t want to be misled by names. The terms themselves – “Christianity” and “Sufism” – are deserving of attention as to what we may be intending in using these terms, particularly in reference to their earliest recognizable manifestations in historical time. There is that celebrated saying from Augustine: “The very thing which is now called the Christian religion existed among the ancients also, nor was it wanting, from the inception of the human race until the coming of Christ in the flesh, at which point the true religion, which was already in existence, began to be called Christian.” The Caucasus and Egypt are variously offered as remote sources for the “nameless way” of the friends of Divine Wisdom, later to be called Sufism and other names. (See also Toshihiko Izutzu’s Sufism and Taoism: A Comparative Study of Key Philosophical Concepts.)

It is somewhat of an epistemologically “fallen state” to require contrasts in order to understand something. We could say that early Christianity was something like a Judaic mystery religion but then we would have to put into question what we think we know about “the mysteries.” We have been educated to regard the “mystery religions” as being about knowledge – a kind of knowledge received by seeing. The reality, however, is that in the time of the pre-Socratics, there was not the distinction to be made between “religion” and “philosophy” – they were of a whole tissue. The Mysteries were also designed as part of a process intended to be transformative. Early Christianity – as well as what was later referred to as Sufism – also had this character. (See Robin Amis’s A Different Christianity and Jacob Needleman’s Lost Christianity.)

Recall that in Eastern Christianity, particularly, it is sometimes remembered and understood that the goal of Christian formation is “theosis.” The transformative content of Sufism is particularly highlighted in this definition offered by Murat Yagan: Sufism is “the process of awakening and developing latent human powers under divine grace and guidance.” The emphasis in this are the words “under divine grace and guidance.” To further emphasize the transformative character of the Christian and/or Sufi “Work” consider the mission of G. I. Gurdjieff in the modern world where the essence of his teaching is variously understood, depending on the context, as “Christian” and as “Sufi.” This particular emphasis in Sufism is sometimes especially associated with Sufism in its “Northern” manifestations sometimes having some traditional connection with Yusuf Hamdani (d. 1140). (See John G. Bennett’s The Masters of Wisdom.) For Christian expressions of the Gurdjieff Work, I commend especially Maurice Nicoll’s The Mark and The New Man.

Margaret Barker, who gave the 2012 Alexander Schmemann Lecture at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, is an excellent resource for the continuities with First Temple Judaism. What we find there is that early Christianity has its place within what is called Enochic tradition of (visionary, merkaba) Judaism that was quite separate from the official Second Temple priesthood and theology. Gabriele Boccaccini also offers a glimpse into this tradition in his Beyond the Essene Hypothesis and other works. Also, in early Christianity, as we know, there was a parting of the ways between Judaic and Gentile (Pauline) Christianity. Scholars such as Samuel Zinner have thought that if there is a desire to look for possible historical continuities between early Christianity and what later began to be called Sufism, then the focus might be on the Ebionites which grew out of that Judaic Christianity that supposedly “disappeared.” Keith Akers has a good book on that as well.

. . . [T]here is an ethos of early Christianity that is congruent with what is called Sufism. In the foreword to Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee’s recent Prayer of the Heart in Christian and Sufi Mysticism, Cynthia Bourgeault writes: “Sufism and Christian are joined at the heart; of that there can be little doubt. I have come to that conclusion in my own right, in the course of my own twenty-year quest to recover Christianity’s authentic Wisdom tradition. . . . I often imagine a kind of hand-off, which may be both historically and politically incorrect but continues to ring with inner truth: that as institutional Christianity became increasingly dogmatic and propositional in its formulations in those centuries following its elevation to the official religion of the Roman Empire, Sufism arose in the cradle of Islam to receive and nurture those teachings on the heart that had first been planted in those near-eastern lands directly from the living heart of Jesus.”

An excellent resource to see the threads of the connections that Bourgeault refers to (when she writes “I often imagine a kind of hand-off”) is Margaret Smith’s The Way of the Mystics: The Early Christian Mystics and the Rise of the Sufis (Oxford, 1978). Margaret Smith was a student of Louis Massignon.

The challenge for those who want to see connections between Christianity and Sufism is not simply to look deeply into (historical) time but to envision the connections for ourselves and for those we love – which may entail an openness to re-discovering neglected riches within Christianity and to discovering for ourselves the significance of Sufism beyond Islamicate contexts. As Sergius Bulgakov wrote in 1895 about that revelatory day in the Caucasus: “The first day of creation shone before my eyes. Everything was clear, everything was at peace and full of ringing joy.” Thomas Merton also had his revelatory (le pointe vierge) moment in Louisville at the corner of Walnut and 4th Street. When there is full awareness (and remembering Canon Allchin), this is what participation in God looks like! In these moments – and in the remembrance of these moments – the question does not distress us.

To read Robert Thompson's article "Joined at the Heart: Imagining Christianity and Sufism" in its entirety, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Sufi Way
Sufism: A Call to Awaken
In the Garden of Spirituality – Doris Lessing
Quote of the Day – February 6, 2013
In the Garden of Spirituality – Hazrat Inayat Khan
In the Garden of Spirituality – Kabir Helminski
Quote of the Day – November 16, 2011
The Winged Heart
Threshold Musings
The Onward Call
Keeping the Spark Alive: Conversing with “Modern Mystic” Chuck Lofy
As the Last Walls Dissolve . . . Everything is Possible

Recommended Off-site Links:
Sharing the Sufis of Syria – Emily O’Dell (Huffington Post, September 5, 2013).
Everyday MysticismSpirituality and Practice.

Opening Image: Ala Ebtekar. Danny Olda writes:

The art of Ala Ebtekar is as simple as it is effective. Ebtekar was born in the United States and raised in California but retained a strong connection to the land of his heritage, Iran. You can nearly see in Ebtekar’s work a gazing at home from far away, a sort of portal. Ebtekar is definitely referencing the cosmic with this work. He says of the Sufi influence behind his work, “Sufis believe that existence is of two natures – both earthly and divine – and it’s that transition between these two states that’s represented by an arch. The arch could be in architecture, but it could also be a beloved’s eyebrow, and how that’s an entrance to that other space.” Ebtekar also subtly uses Western imagery in addressing this “other space” – you’ll notice some of these pieces printed on the back of science fiction movie posters.