Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Samhain: A Time of Magick and Mystery

[L]ate October/early November [has a power] over our collective psyches. There’s something spooky and marvelous about Samhain-time, something that was expressed by the Celts and by more modern peoples afterwards. Christians moved holidays to lay witness to the magick and mystery of late Autumn. Fear, coupled with the possibility of supernatural intervention, has remained a part of the holiday since its beginning and is still being celebrated today. The Irish-Celts may not have believed the “veil was thin” at Samhain, but they obviously believed that some sort of border between human and the other lifted in the Fall. There’s an irrepressible spirit in the air this time of year. It lived with our pagan forbearers and lives within us.

– Jason Mankey
Excerpted from "Samhain Past: History, Myth, and Mystery"
October 16, 2014

Samhain Blessings!

May Samhain bring you the endings you need
and the beginnings you desire.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
At Hallowtide, Pagan Thoughts on Restoring Our World and Our Souls
The Pagan Roots of All Saints Day
Halloween Thoughts
An All Hallow's Eve Reflection
A Hallowtide Reflection
"Call Upon Those You Love"
All You Holy Men and Women
Our Sacred Journey Continues: An All Saints and Souls Day Reflection
An All Souls Day Reflection
"A Dark Timelessness and Stillness Surrounds Her Wild Abandonment"
Gabriel Fauré's "ChristoPagan" Requiem
Advent: A "ChristoPagan" Perspective
Magician Among the Spirits

Related Off-site Links:
Halloween – Summer’s End, a Feast for Remembering – Kieran Bohan (A Brave Faith, October 31, 2015).
If a Druid Rings the Doorbell – Michael Tortorello (The New York Times, October 30, 2013).
How the Dead Danced With the Living in Medieval Society – Ashby Kinch (The Conversation, October 29, 2017).
Witches and Class Struggle – Silvia Federici (Jacobin, October 31, 2018).
What Ancient Cultures Teach Us About Grief, Mourning and Continuity of Life – Daniel Wojcik and Robert Dobler (The Conversation, November 1, 2017).
"Remember You Will Die" – and 11 Other Tips for a Better Death – Stephen Moss (The Guardian, October 30, 2018).

Opening image: Artist unknown.
Autumn images: Michael J. Bayly.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Our Bodies Are Part of the Cosmos . . .

. . . We are made of its matter – its water, its carbon, its electrons, protons, and neutrons. We have mass and we experience inertia. The electricity within our nerve fibers, for example, is part of the electricity of the cosmos. The atoms in our bodies, like those in the substances that chemists study, are held together by bondings. The core of each of our atoms, and also of those in materials apart from ourselves, is held together by mysterious nuclear forces. The breath of our life depends on the atmosphere that provide us with oxygen atoms. Yet we do not own our atoms. We borrow them to use throughout our lives and surrender them at death.

Henry A. Garon
Excerpted from The Cosmic Mystique
Orbis Books, 2006
p. 29

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Body: As Sacred and Knowing as a Temple Oracle
To Dance . . .
A Kind of Dancing Divinity
A Prayer for Dancers
We All Dance . . .
Not Whether We Dance, But How
Move Us, Loving God
Unique . . . Yes, You!
Divine Connection
The Soul of a Dancer
Corpus Christi

Images: Dancer Calvin Royal III. (Photo 1: The NYC Dance Project. Photo 2: Photographer unknown.)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Quote of the Day

For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement. You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s violence is the direct culmination of your influence. . . . Our Jewish community is not the only group you have targeted. You have also deliberately undermined the safety of people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. Yesterday’s massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority group in our country. President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you stop targeting and endangering all minorities.

– Members of the Pittsburgh Affiliate of
Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice
Excerpted from an Open Letter to President Trump in the wake of
the October 27 mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue

Related Off-site Links and Updates:
Progressive Jewish Leaders Tell Trump He's Not Welcome in Pittsburgh Until He Denounces White Nationalism – Morgan Gstalyer (The Hill, October 28, 2018).
From Charleston to Tree of Life: White Nationalism Is a Threat to Us All – Rev. Jennifer Bailey and Dove Kent (Common Dreams, October 30, 2018).
Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari: Trump and GOP Have Blood on Their Hands for Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting and Hateful ViolenceDemocracy Now! (October 29, 2018).
Trump's Role in the Tree of Life Massacre – Bill Boyarskyn (TruthDig, October 29, 2018).
Uncle of Trump Adviser Stephen Miller: Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Is What Happens When Hate Is LegitimizedDemocracy Now! (October 29, 2018).
This is Trump’s America: Slaughter in Pittsburgh, Racist Killings at Kroger, and the MAGAbomber – Chauncey Devega (Salon, October 29, 2018).
Trump Is Blaming the Media for One of the Worst Weeks in Modern American History – But His Own Support for Violent Bigotry Is to Blame – Shaun King (The Intercept, October 29, 2018).
Why Aren't We Calling the Pittsburgh Shooting "Terrorism"? – Khaled Beydoun (Common Dreams, October 29, 2018).
How White Supremacist Ideology and Conspiracies Have Fueled U.S. Domestic Terror and Hateful ViolenceDemocracy Now! (October 30, 2018).
Trump Condemns Anti-Semitism in the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting After Facing Backlash – Madhuri Sathish (Bustle, October 27, 2018).
Muslim Groups Raise Thousands for Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Victims – Andy McDonald (The Huffington Post, October 28, 2018).
President Trump to Visit Pittsburgh Tuesday to Show Support for Community After Mass Killing at Synagogue – David Jackson, John Fritze, and William Cummings (USA Today, October 29, 2018).
Protests Planned as Trump Defies Requests He Stay Away From a Pittsburgh in Mourning – Jessica Corbett (Common Dreams, October 30, 2018).
Thousands Gather in Squirrel Hill for Protest, Turn Backs on President Trump’s MotorcadeCBS Pittsburgh (October 30, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Something to Thing About – October 28, 2018
Quote of the Day – October 25, 2018
Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence
Trump's Playbook

Something to Think About . . .



Related Off-site Links:
A Week of American Hate: Bombs Mailed, Black People Executed, Jews Slaughtered – Andy Campbell and Sebastian Murdock (The Huffington Post, October 27, 2018).
11 Dead, 6 Injured in Shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh – Rahul Kalvapalle (Global News, October 27, 2018).
Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Suspect Arrested After Fatal Attack on Worshippers and Police – Reuters/AP via ABC News (October 27, 2018).
White Man with History of Anti-Semitic Posts Targets Pittsburgh Synagogue, Killing 11 People – John Altdorfer (Reuters via Sojourners, October 27, 2017).
Trump’s Migrant Caravan Hysteria Led to This – Adam Serwer (The Atlantic, October 28, 2018).
What We Know About Robert Bowers, the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Suspect – Saeed Ahmed and Paul P. Murphy (CNN, October 28, 2018).
A Massacre in Pittsburgh Illustrates America’s Disunity – Dylan Lovan (Associated Press via Time, October 26, 2018).
Shooter Kills Two Black People at Kentucky Supermarket After Targeting Black ChurchDemocracy Now!, October 29, 2018).
Kentucky Grocery Store Shooting That Left Two Dead Now Being Investigated as Possible Hate Crime – Dylan Lovan (Associated Press via Time, October 26, 2018).
When White Supremacists Target the Black Elderly – Zak Cheney-Rice (New York Magazine, October 28, 2018).
Alleged Mail Bomber Arrested, But National Nightmare Continues – Kelly Hayes (TruthOut, October 27, 2018).
Trump Era Unique for Violent Extremists Inspired by U.S. President – Rachel Maddow (MSNBC, October 26, 2018).
Trump Is Blaming the Media for One of the Worst Weeks in Modern American History – But His Own Support for Violent Bigotry Is to Blame – Shaun King (The Intercept, October 29, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – October 25, 2018
Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence
Trump's Playbook

Saturday, October 27, 2018

New Horizons

Reflections on David Lean’s adaptation
of E.M. Foster's A Passage to India

Based on E.M. Forster’s 1924 novel of the same name, David Lean’s 1984 film A Passage to India focuses on two interrelated storylines: the adventures of two English women in British-occupied India and the friendship between an Indian doctor and a British schoolteacher. Forster was an anti-colonialist, and A Passage to India, which is considered a literary landmark of the twentieth century, highlights what critic Robert McCrum calls “the larger tragedy of imperialism.” Lean’s film adaptation follows suit.

As works of art, both the book and film contain numerous themes that reflect deeply human and thus political, social, and spiritual realities. This contention is based on what Jungian-influenced author Thomas Moore says about imagination and spirituality. For Moore, whenever imagination achieves depth and fullness, we glimpse the sacred. Accordingly, any creative work of human imagination that approaches this richness and depth helps create a religious sensibility. “When they expose the deep images and themes that course through human life,” writes Moore, “so-called secular literature and art serve the religious impulse.”

A Passage to India lifts up and explores a number of themes reflective of the depth dimension of human life and its inherent “religious impulse.” The two that will be explored here are encounter and journey. Both of these themes can be seen to be key aspects of the transformation, the movement towards wholeness, at the heart of psycho/sexual/spiritual development. Accordingly, the following questions are important to keep in mind.

• How do the ways we approach and encounter one’s self and others support or hinder this movement – this journey – in psycho/sexual/spiritual wholeness?

• What role do our religious frameworks play in supporting or hindering the ways we encounter others, the ways we make meaning of such encounters, and the trajectory and progress of our journey?

• What are the wider social, religious, and political implications of such a journey?

In exploring the ways that A Passage to India presents and responds to these questions, I’ll be viewing the themes of encounter and journey within an understanding of psycho/sexual/spiritual development represented in what is known as the Hero’s Journey.

In his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell highlights the universality of the myth of the Hero’s Journey by terming it the “monomyth” (Campbell, p.30). The true hero is every human being as all are called to grow and develop in ways whereby transformation and wholeness are embodied as the result of a process that can be envisioned metaphorically as a quest, journey and/or adventure.

Campbell notes that “the standard path of the mythological adventure of the hero is a magnification of the formula represented in the rites of passage: separation-initiation-return. A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder. Fabulous forces are encountered and a decisive victory is won. The hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on [others]” (Campbell, p.30).

Such a rite of passage is discernible in A Passage to India, primarily in the character and travails of Adela.

Miss Quested

A Passage to India opens with Adela Quested (Judy Davis) moving through a faceless crowd of people to stand alone at a rain-splattered window. Within she observes a model of the steamship that will transport her and her potential mother-in-law, Mrs. Moore (Peggy Ashcroft), to India where her fiancée, Ronny (Nigel Havers), awaits their arrival in the city of Chandrapore.

Film critic Alain Silver notes that in the film’s opening scene Lean introduces and reinforces Adela’s “isolation in a sea of objects.” An insert of the clerk’s pen reveals her name as he smilingly remarks, “I envy you, new horizons.” Adela’s response is to lower her head and reply, “I’ll be staying on . . . probably.” She then glances up to the framed prints on the wall depicting the ship, the Taj Mahal, and the Marabar Caves. When the caves are identified by the clerk who then proceeds to inform her that they are just twenty miles from Chandrapore, Adela displays an intriguingly knowing expression, tinged with trepidation. It’s as if some deep part of herself unconsciously recognizes the disrupting significance that the caves will play in her life.

In devising this opening scene, writes Silver, Lean “imbues Adela with . . . conflicting impulses. The prints on the wall represent . . . an unknown filled with promise of ‘new horizons,’ of adventure, but far from the security of familiar surroundings.” (Silver, David Lean and His Films, p.212)

Yet much to Adela and Mrs. Moore's disappointment, they do find themselves in "familiar surroundings." For the India they've journeyed to is the India of the British “Raj” (its colonial empire in India). Ronny is part of the ruling elite, a magistrate in Chandrapore, and upon their arrival to the sub-continent, Adela and Mrs. Moore all too quickly find themselves immersed in the imported British culture of the Raj.

Determined to experience “the real India,” the two women accept an invitation from the affable Muslim Indian physician, Dr. Aziz (Victor Banerjee), to journey and partake in a picnic lunch at the Marabar Caves. It is planned that they’ll be accompanied by both Mr. Fielding (James Fox), Headmaster of Government College and a friend of Dr. Aziz, and Professor Godbole (Alec Guinness), a Hindu scholar and mystic.

East and West: Contrasting Models of Religious Life

In its exploration of themes of importance and depth, A Passage to India highlights the similarities and differences between two philosophical and spiritual frameworks, often termed Eastern and Western.

In her book What We Can Learn from the East, Beatrice Bruteau notes that religion in the East “is a matter of direct experience.” Ultimate reality, or God, is believed to dwell all around us and infuse our entire being, speaking to us in ways that draw us to union with God-self. Religious people are therefore called to open themselves to the presence of God within and beyond themselves.

Huston Smith writes in The World’s Religions that all of us dwell on the brink of the “infinite ocean of life’s creative power.” Eastern religions remind us that this sacred power lies at our deepest core. As Huston says:

We carry it within us: supreme strength, the fullness of wisdom, unquenchable joy. It is never thwarted and cannot be destroyed. But it is hidden deep, which is what makes life a problem. The infinite is down in the darkest, profoundest vault of our being, in the forgotten well house, the deep cistern. What if we could bring it to light and draw from it unceasingly” (p.26)

This last question, Huston observes, has been India’s obsession for thousands of years. “[India’s] people seek religious truth not simply to increase their store of general information; they seek it as a chart to guide them to higher states of being,” says Huston. “Religious people are ones who are seeking to transform their natures, reshape them to a superhuman pattern through which the infinite can shine with fewer obstructions.” (p.26)

The Esoteric Model

When religion primarily focuses on inner transformation and views the world and human experience as the locus of God’s transforming presence then it can be termed esoteric. Such a religious framework has distinct benefits. It fosters a deep respect and love for others and the environment as they, like oneself, are perceived as vessels of the sacred. It also compels us to be attentive to our experiences and those of others as all are potentially capable of revealing divine truths. A danger of such a model is that it can lead to self-absorption and relativism, as understood as an "anything goes" attitude and approach to life.

The Exoteric Model

The esoteric model of religious life may seem foreign to many in the Christian West where an alternative model has gained prominence in the last 1500 years. In the West, religious people tend to believe that their religion is given by God in an absolute and authoritative form. Divine revelation is believed to have been deposited once and for all, through a particular medium/s such as sacred scripture, dogma, an authoritative figure, and/or an ecclesiastical structure. Contrary to historical evidence, this revelation is often viewed as unchangeable.

For many accustomed to this model the proper response of the religious individual is to accept unquestioningly the understanding of divine truth that the model presents and conform to its prescribed beliefs, ideas, attitudes, and behaviors. A religious understanding/model that places emphasis on authority outside the individual and within a highly regimented and insulated framework can be termed exoteric.

An exoteric model of religious life has distinct characteristics that many find beneficial. Its highly focused (and usually closed-circuited) framework allows for the articulation of very clear and precise theological pronouncements. Accordingly, it offers for many not only the assurance that they are “on the right track” in terms of being “saved,” but the rules and regulations to follow so as to stay on this track.

Yet many see disadvantages to this model. It does not readily accept, for instance, new insights on the spiritual/religious life gained by people’s experiences or by advancements in areas of inquiry outside a strictly religious sphere, e.g., science. Accordingly, it often fails to acknowledge that the revealed truths it articulates were themselves discerned and shaped over centuries by people’s experience of God mediated through humanity’s ongoing development. When this model over emphasizes its rules it can become uncompassionate, dogmatic, and legalistic. At its worst, this model has maintained and expressed itself as religious imperialism, assuming that it has all the answers, silencing all alternative views and questions, and forcing its particular perspective and it structures of order and control onto others.

Of course, it’s crucial to remember that all religions contain both esoteric and exoteric characteristics. What varies is which characteristics are emphasized and to what extent. The caste system in Hinduism, for instance, with its strict order and sense of hierarchy, is an exoteric feature within a religion that generally reflects an esoteric understanding. Though many would classify Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as exoteric, each contains a strong and consistent stream of esoteric thought. In Judaism there is the Yahwist source, the earliest author of the Torah, as well as the Psalms, the wisdom books, and much of the prophetic literature. In Islam, there is the rich mystical tradition of the Sufis. Throughout the West, which has been long dominated by the exoteric characteristics of religion, there is an effort to reclaim and reinstate to a level of prominence humanity’s deeper esoteric spiritual heritage. In Christianity, these efforts can be seen in a number of developments. Three from the Catholic tradition include (i) the theological themes and emphasizes of the Second Vatican Council; (ii) the renewed interest in the ancient doctrine of the Cosmic Christ; and (iii) the increased awareness of the Christian East’s understanding of theosis (a transformative process that aims to bring an individual to union with or likeness to the Divine).

Representations of the Two Models in A Passage to India

In A Passage to India the British Raj can readily be seen as representing an exoteric model of religion distorted into religious imperialism. Adela and Mrs. Moore, symbolic seekers of spiritual insight (note both their last names, “Quested” and “Moore”), are drawn beyond the strict and suffocating confines of the British enclave within which they are expected to remain. They long to see “the real India,” symbolic of an esoteric religious/spiritual model open to the transforming presence and power of God within all creation and mediated through the experiences of all people.

Such a model (and the journey it facilitates) welcomes and is characterized by an openness to diversity and difference, a willingness to engage, and a willingness to journey beyond the known. Both Adela and Mrs. Moore reflect these qualities.

Openness to Diversity and Difference

Upon their arrival, both women are awed and enlivened by the colorful and vibrant atmosphere of Chandrapore – one that is open to life as well as death, as the funeral procession through the marketplace illustrates. Yet Ronny, entrenched in the repressed and controlling British Raj, can only turn to his mother and Adela and assure them that they’ll “be out of this soon,” implying that this is not where they belong.

Arriving at their new residence, Mrs. Moore and Adela are clearly disappointed by their surroundings, with only the distant Marabar Hills offering Adela an intriguing glimpse of mystery.

The following day, after observing Ronny’s harsh and punitive sentencing of an Indian, Mrs. Moore dryly and cynically notes the “sights” of the city she had been shown earlier that morning: the library, the war memorial, the church, the college. The British Raj, Mrs. Moore has discovered, cannot look beyond itself and its owns structures and trappings of prestige and power so as to observe, celebrate, and be potentially transformed by the rich culture that surrounds it. Similarly, exoteric religion can tend to view itself as exclusive and superior from others. In doing so it risks cutting itself off from the presence of God mediated through sources outside its own framework.

Mrs. Moore, however, can look beyond – even to the point of declaring in the mosque that “God is here.” For Mrs. Moore, God is ultimately bigger than any one religious framework – even the one offered by her own Christian tradition. Mrs. Moore has also transcended in many ways an “either/or” mentality (another potential pitfall of exoteric religion), and can accept instead ambiguity while remaining at peace. Thus her acknowledgement of God present in other religions does not undermine or threaten her own Christian faith but instead enhances it. Her openness to accept ambiguity is also expressed when she observes with Dr. Aziz the Ganges River and articulates her inner vision’s comprehension that the river is both terrible and wonderful.

In Professor Godbole’s eyes, Mrs. Moore is a “very old soul,” one who is nearing the end of her cycle of rebirths. In a Buddhist context, Mrs. Moore personifies the bodhisattva – “one whose essence is perfected wisdom” (Smith, p.124) and who lingers in this world so as to help others along this same path of wisdom by his/her example.

Willingness to Engage

Adela and Mrs. Moore also reflect authentic religion’s need for engagement with those perceived as “other.” This need is not shared by their British counterparts. For when they ask Mr. and Mrs. Turton if they could meet some of the Indians with whom they “come across socially,” Mrs. Turton condescendingly responds that such a coming together is not possible as, “East is East, Mrs. Moore. It’s a question of culture.”

Such condescension is again on display at the “bridge party” – a superficial attempt to “bridge the gap” between East and West. Mrs. Moore rightly recognizes that the British Raj’s ingrained prejudices ensure that the event is “unnatural” – a mere “exercise in power and the subtle pleasures of personal superiority.” Ronny is at a loss for words. He, like the other members of the Raj, lacks the vision and insight to view the wider picture, one that his mother articulates quite plainly: “We are called to love and help our fellow men.”

Mrs. Moore sees that the attitudes and structures of the colonial system within which her son is enmeshed, prevent openness to and sharing of such love. In ways both conscious and unconscious, Mrs. Moore situates herself outside this system (she intentionally leaves the club to visit the mosque and, later, she seems not to hear – and thus hesitates to stand for – the national anthem). Her openness to engage with Dr. Aziz and to share with him honestly and intimately about her life and family, shows that she does not see herself superior to him.

Journeying Beyond the Known

Another characteristic of esoteric spirituality is that it is more comfortable with ambiguity and paradox as opposed to an exoteric religious framework that prefers things clear and precise. Esoteric religion is open to going beyond the known and into the unknown.

This openness is supported and sustained by the hallmark of authentic spirituality, that being a trustful outlook with regard to the ultimately mysterious presence of God, our “ultimate ground of confidence” (Haught, p.156). In his book, What Is Religion?, John Haught notes the following.

At the heart of religion there lies an attitude of confidence and assurance. Religion is not in the same category of understanding as, for example, knowledge of the multiplication tables. It hardly possesses that kind of clarity and distinctness. People do not become religious simply by performing automatic operations of logic. Religion instead is closer to interpersonal kinds of experience and knowledge. The latter require that we risk ourselves by going out to people in acts of trust. (p.146)

Both Adela and Mrs. Moore display this openness to take risks – in general by their longing to see “the real India,” and specifically by their accepting of Dr. Aziz’s invitation to journey to the Marabar Caves.

Openness to both mystery and a wider perspective/experience of the world can, however, be frightening and dangerous. For those accustomed to the more focused and regimented approach of the West, it can instigate a spiritual crisis. Yet in the East, crisis not only implies danger but also opportunity. It is a crisis that has the potential to lead us to an ever-deepening experience of union with God, Self, and others.

Such an experience can be unsettling. “India forces one to come face-to-face with oneself,” Mrs. Moore confides to Adela. “It can be rather disturbing.”

At the Marabar Caves, both women will be profoundly disturbed when each is forced to confront aspects of their lives that they have repressed. This confrontation occurs where it does because the Marabar Caves, as the anonymous author of an online commentary notes, are “pregnant with both meaning and meaningless.” They harbor a strange echo and “serve as amplification chambers, magnifying the fears and desires of all who enter.”

To be continued.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Learning from the East
Rock of Ages: Theological Reflections on Picnic at Hanging Rock
Pan's Labyrinth: Critiquing the Cult of Unquestioning Obedience
"This Light Breeze that Loves Me": Reflections on Hamam: The Turkish Bath
Reflections on the Overlooked Children of Men
Revisiting a Groovy Jesus (and a Dysfunctional Theology)
Reflections on Babel and the "Borders Within"
Dew[y]-Kissed: Reflections on Under the Greenwood Tree
What the Vatican Can Learn From the X-Men
The New Superman: Not Necessarily Gay, But Definitely Queer

Thursday, October 25, 2018


I don't believe our lives are simple
And I don't believe they're short, this is interlude

I don't believe my hands are cleanly
Can't believe that you would let me touch your heart

You didn't believe me when I said that I lost my faith
You must believe in something, something, something
You gotta believe in something, something, something

I still believe in you, man
A wise one asked me why
'Cause I just don't believe we're wicked
I know that we sin but I do believe we try
We all try . . .

Try to believe, just try

Frank Ocean
(from his song "We All Try")

NEXT: Ride to Sundown

Images: "Mahad, 10/01/18"" by Michael J. Bayly.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Longing and a Prayer
Now Is the Time
Time By the River
Quote of the Day – July 7, 2012
Ocean Trip

Quote of the Day

The targets of this domestic terrorist – the Obamas, the Clintons, Maxine Waters, George Soros, John Brennan, Eric Holder, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, CNN's office – are all people specifically attacked with vile, often violent rhetoric by the President of the United States. Trump has called these people threats to our nation, traitors, and enemies of the people. Trump's repulsive personality and his promotion of dangerous conspiracies from the Oval Office has now led to actual terrorism. This reckless brute is a clear and present danger to the country he is supposed to protect. He inspires violence and promotes dangerous conspiracies among weak-minded but well-armed men on the far-right fringes of our society. If we can take the House, we can check his power and ensure that his vast array of crimes get a full public hearing, perhaps forcing him to resign in order to avoid criminal penalties for himself and his family. If we don't take the House, the damning evidence of the Mueller report could be reduced to the empty pleadings of a powerless opposition. The election in twelve days is the only way to save our country from this dangerous fool. The stakes have never been higher.

Ken Darling
via Facebook
October 25, 2018

Image: Duff Moses.

Related Off-site Links:
Trump Decries “Political Violence” After Years of Stoking It – Andrew Restuccia and Gabby Orr (Politico, October 24, 2018).
The Ugliness and Hatred That Trump Has Wrought – Michael Harmer (Michael-In-Norfolk, October 25, 2018).
Soros, CNN, Obama and the Clintons: Trump's Incitement Turns Into Real Threats – Allison Kaplan Sommer (Haaretz, October 25, 2018).
Psychological Violence and Propaganda, from the White House – Ravi Chandra (Psychology Today (October 23, 2018).
Trump Blames Media for Inciting “Anger” After Bombs Sent to CNN and High-Profile DemocratsDemocracy Now! (October 25, 2018).
These Attempted Bombings Show How Dangerous Trump’s Rhetoric Really Is – Stephen A. Crockett Jr. (The Root, October 24, 2018).
The Far Right Is Claiming That Letter Bombs Are a “Liberal Tactic.” But History Shows That They Are Equal-opportunity Terrorism – Rebecca Onion (Slate, October 25, 2018).
Whose Violence? – In the US and Around the World Today, Political Violence Is the Hallmark of the Right, Not the Left – Branko Marcetic (Jacobin, June 15, 2017).
Why Does the Far Right Hold a Near-Monopoly on Political Violence? – Joshua Holland (The Nation, June 23, 2017).
Far Right Urging of Jailing of Political Rivals Linked in History With Bombings – Juan Cole (Informed Comment via Common Dreams, October 26, 2018).

UPDATES: What We Know About Cesar Altieri Sayoc, the Man Arrested in Connection With Pipe Bombs Sent to Democrats – Molly Olmstead (Slate, October 26, 2018).
Pipe Bomb Suspect Cesar Altieri Sayoc's Social Media Is Filled With Pro-Trump Memes and Threats to Democrats – Tasneem Nashrulla, Ellie Hall, and Zoe Tillman (BuzzFeed, October 26, 2018).
Accused Bomber Cesar Sayoc Was a Fervent Trump Supporter – Trevor Aaronson (The Intercept, October 26, 2018).
Trump Refuses to Call Clintons or Obamas Following Bomb Scare – Summer Cartwright (Salon, October 26, 2018).
Mail-bomber “False Flag” Theories Overwhelm Discourse on Terrorism – David Neiwert (Southern Poverty Law Center, October 26, 2018).
Of Course Somebody Took Close-Up Pictures of Suspected Bomber's Van: Here They Are – Jake Johnson (Common Dreams, October 26, 2018).
Maxine Waters: Trump Should "Take Responsibility" for Bomb Threats, He's Been "Dog-Whistling" to Supporters – Ramsey Touchberry (Newsweek, October 25, 2018).
Is Trump Responsible for Violence? Yes – Laura Flanders (Common Dreams, October 26, 2018).
How Trump's Psychology of Hate Unleashed the MAGABomber – Todd Essig (Forbes, October 26, 2018).
Here Is a List of Far-Right Attackers Trump Inspired. Cesar Sayoc Wasn’t the First – and Won’t Be the Last – Mehdi Hasan (The Intercept, October 27, 2018).

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Photo of the Day

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In Autumn Light
Autumn Hues
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

With Love Inside . . .

I've had many different experiences
. . . and felt many things.
That's all part of me now.

– Carl Anderson
(June 1988)

Today I celebrate 53 years of, in the words of the late, great Carl Anderson, "many different experiences and feelings." . . . Yes, fifty-three years of life on this beautiful planet . . . and of connection to some truly inspiring people and communities. For all of this I am grateful beyond measure.

And as has been the tradition at The Wild Reed, I mark the occasion of my birthday by sharing a song or prayer or reflection that I find particularly meaningful.

On my 44th birthday, for instance, I shared Stephan Gately's performance of "No Matter What," and when I turned 45 I shared "Where the Truth Lies" by the band Exchange. In 2012, when I turned 47, I shared a prayer for balance at a very trying time, not only for me, but for many of us here in Minnesota. Two years ago, on the first day of my fiftieth year, I shared a "guidepost on the journey," and then on the day of my 50th birthday I shared Buffy Sainte-Marie's rousing "It's My Way." Last year I shared a beautiful poem by John O'Donohue.

This year I share a song by Carl Anderson, whose music I've been collecting and enjoying for the last six months or so. This particular song is the closing track of Carl's 1988 album, An Act of Love.

Entitled "Love Is (The Love Song)," this track is a beautiful and powerful meditation on the mystery of love, something I've been pondering and wrestling with for a while now, as attested by previous Wild Reed posts (see here, here, and here).

I guess it's also something I'm seeking, rather like a hidden spring in a forgotten ravine . . .

Perhaps more about all of this in a future post. For now, though, here's the incomparable Carl Anderson with "Love Is" . . . followed by some images of various birthday celebrations I experienced this year! Enjoy!

Tho' I speak with the tongues of men and of angels
And have not love
I have become as a sounding brass or a tingling symbol
And tho' I have the gift of prophesy
And understand all mysteries and all knowledge
And tho' I have all faith
So that I can move mountains
But have not love
I am nothing

In your thirst to find love
You’d better be aware
Love has no warning signs; it can show up anywhere
Love has no boundaries; has its own power source
Love has a way of charting its own course

With love inside your spirit shines
When you’re in doubt, love’s the answer
When love decides, you can’t hide
What love provides is eternal

Once love touches you, surely then you’ll know
All the joy that love provides from where all blessings flow
When you wear love’s banner, it protects you with its shield
Love can open any door and any truth reveal

With love inside your spirit shines
When you’re in doubt, love’s the answer
When love decides, you can’t hide
What love provides is eternal

Love suffereth long and is kind
Love is not proud but
Beareth all things
Believeth all things
Hopeth all things
Endureth all things

I love you, yes I do
I won't let nothing stand in our way

When I was a child I spoke as a child
I understood as a child
I thought as a child
But when I became a man I put away childish things
For now we see through a glass darkly
But then, face to face
Now I know in part; but then shall I know
Even as I am known
And now abideth
Faith, hope, love
These three
But the greatest of these
Is love

With love inside your spirit shines
When you’re in doubt, love’s the answer
When love decides, you can’t hide
What love provides is eternal

Left: My birthday week kicked off on the evening of Sunday, October 21 with a delicious meal with my friend Mahad at Fasika, an award-winning Ethiopian restaurant in Saint Paul.

Right: My boyfriend Brent and I with British soul singer Lisa Stansfield – Pantages Theatre, Minneapolis, Monday, October 22, 2018.

Lisa was in town as part of her "Go Deeper" tour of North America, and our VIP tickets to her Minneapolis show the night before my birthday were a gift from Brent. What a sweet and generous guy!

Above: Lisa Stansfield in concert – Minneapolis, October 22, 2018.

Above: A birthday morning coffee with my friend Hae
– Minneapolis, October 23, 2018.

On Saturday, October 27, my friend Deandre (right) took me out for my birthday to the Mall of America. Later that night we met up with Brent and friends Pete and Jeffrey to see A Star Is Born at West End in St. Louis Park, MN (above).

Above: With my friends John and Noelle – Sunday, October 28, 2018.

Above: Friends Phil, Dee, Liana, and Silvie – Sunday, October 28, 2018.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
On This "Echoing-Day" of My Birth
Turning 50
A Guidepost on the Journey
In the Eye of the Storm, a Tree of Living Flame
Journeying Into the Truth . . . Valiantly, of Course
No Matter What

For more of Carl Anderson at The Wild Reed, see:
Carl Anderson: "One of the Most Enjoyable Male Vocalists of His Era"
Carl Anderson
Revisiting a Groovy Jesus (and a Dysfunctional Theology)

Opening image: A still from the music video for Carl Anderson's 1990 song, "How Deep Does It Go."
An Act of Love album cover photography: Phillip Dixon.
All other images: Michael Bayly and friends.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Saturday, October 20, 2018

World Hospice and Palliative Care Day

Last Saturday, October 13, was World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, a key aim of which is to raise awareness and understanding of the medical, social, practical, and spiritual needs of individuals and families living with a life limiting illness. The day is significant for me as since September 4 I've been working as the Palliative Care Chaplain at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, MN.

Organised by a committee of the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance, World Hospice and Palliative Care Day is a "unified day of action to celebrate and support hospice and palliative care around the world." This special day is always celebrated on the second Saturday of October and has a different theme each year. This year's theme is "Palliative Care – Because I Matter!"

The Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance chose this theme as it "centers on the lived experience of people affected by serious illness, looking at what matters most, including the often-overlooked financial impact of palliative care needs on individuals and households." The alliance notes that "the theme also contains elements of human rights and justice, asking: If I matter, then why am I not getting the care I need?"

This year is the centenary of Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the modern hospice movement. It's fitting, then, that this year’s World Hospice and Palliative Care Day theme draws its wording from her iconic quote: "You matter because you are you, and you matter until the end of your life."

Some personal reflections

To mark World Hospice and Palliative Care Day I share two excerpts from my final self-evaluation of my chaplain residency experience at Abbott Northwestern Hospital (September 2017August 2018).

The first excerpt focuses on my understanding on spiritual assessment as based on an understanding of behavior science and a grounding in theology. Here's what I wrote . . .

My spiritual assessment of a patient and their situation comes very naturally to me and occurs through the interaction I facilitate and engage in. The sense I have about this communication/interaction (along with feedback I’ve received from both patients and staff) is that it is genuine; that I relate emotionally and spiritually in a very authentic way, a very human way. In reflecting on this, I realize I’ve had a lifetime of honing the ability to relate in this way, perhaps without even realizing it. Through my coming out journey – or perhaps better still, the ways I’ve chosen to respond to the challenges of coming out and all the questioning and searching such an experience is capable of facilitating – I’ve come to integrate much insight and experience relating to both “behavior science” (Jungian/Sacred Psychology mostly) and “theology,” primarily sacramental theology (in its broadest sense) and the embodied theology inherent to the mystic/prophetic spiritual path, a path that runs deep within all the great religious traditions of humanity.

I think of the strange experience I had [on] Sunday, August 12. I’d just finished a 24-hour on-call shift – a very eventful shift. I was walking to the hospital parking ramp, reflecting on the powerful pastoral encounters I’d just experienced. I also knew that I’d be meeting later that day with the young man I’d first meet at the hospital and with whom I’ve been accompanying in a supportive way on his ongoing journey towards recovery from addiction. The morning was very still and clear and for reason I can't explain, the lyrics of Kate Bush’s song “Lyra,” from the soundtrack of the movie The Golden Compass, began resounding gently in my head.

Where are our lives
If there is no dream?
Where is our home?
We don't know how
There will be a way
Out of the storm
We will find home

And her soul walks beside her
An army stands behind her
Lyra, Lyra

And her face, full of grace
Two worlds collide around her
The truth lies deep inside her
Lyra, Lyra

And the stars look down upon her
As darkness settles on her
Lyra, Lyra

Who's to know
What's in the future
But we hope
We will be with her
We have all our love to give her
Oh, Lyra, Lyra

It’s a very pagan song, when I stop and think about it. Not surprising, really, considering the source material is the trilogy His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, and that the song is written and performed by Kate Bush, a singer-songwriter of whom it’s been said has “her own mystery school . . . [a] unique strand of Shaivism, Dionysian and Druid philosophy, loosely wrapped up in a song and dance tradition.”

Expanding on this, Martin Glover shared the following reflection in 2014:

There is a barrenness in religions today. Whether in Christianity, Islam or false prophet new age gurus, humanity is rudderless, bedazzled by materialism. Kate’s communion with nature is the antidote. It is a call to joy, a celebration of the sublime. It’s about the intoxication of love and the ecstasy that follows. [It's] where wisdom lies, hidden deep within its mystical and poetic roots.

Kate’s "religion" is the tiny spark of light that defeats the dark forces that seek dominion over the natural world. . . . She exemplifies English pagan beauty. A dark timelessness and stillness surrounds her wild abandonment, whilst her voice charges at you like Boudicca returned, riding a golden chariot of weird melody, harmony and bitter dissonance.

As strange as it may sound, I feel there’s something about my approach to chaplaincy in all of this; my approach to life, actually. For if this residency has revealed anything to me, it’s that I’m well along the path of integration. I suppose some might think that this is a grandiose statement, but I see it instead as a simple statement of self-evaluation.

I’m also aware that for me the boundaries between the different aspects of my life are thin and nebulous. I “walk in many worlds” and, inspired and compelled by a deep inner wisdom honed over the long and serpentine course of my journey as a queer man, I cross boundaries intuitively and in ways that ensure no one is damaged or hurt – myself included. In short, I feel that there is something of the shaman in me. And I’m okay with that.

Anyway, perhaps such thoughts and realizations were welling up within me that Sunday morning as I walked to my car after some pretty intense patient encounters, and with Kate Bush’s “Lyra” in my head. I suddenly found myself slowing my pace, looking up at the sun shining through the trees, and saying out loud to myself, Maybe everything I’ve done and been through has brought me to this moment and to this work!

As soon as I said these words my pager went off in my pocket. My initial thought was, Oh, great! The universe is now going to totally debunk that thought by giving me a horrendous situation to deal with! Yet when I looked at the pager there was no such message on it. It fact there was no message at all. Yet its going off at that exact moment was, I feel, some kind of affirming message; a way that the Divine, the Universe, whatever name one wants to use, was mysteriously telling me to, Hey, pay attention to that thought, to that realization, that truth!

The second excerpt I share from my August 2018 final self-evaluation of my chaplain residency focuses on what it means to me to be a "professional in ministry." Specifically, this part of the evaluation asked me to describe my "pattern of interacting with other professional staff, both nurses and doctors, with respect to collaboration and dialogue." Following is how I responded to this question . . .

Something significant I can highlight in relation to this question is the way I’ve worked with and have been accepted by the Palliative Care team at Abbott. It’s been quite something, when I stop and think about it. It’s been like a learning/mentoring experience which since February (almost mid-way through my residency) has run parallel to, though certainly not separate from or in competition with, my “regular” chaplaincy learning/mentoring experience.

Above: With members of the Palliative Care team of Abbott Northwestern Hospital (along with one of these member's children) – August 22, 2018.

The focused work of palliative care has ensured that I’ve had numerous encounters with staff – doctors included. These encounters have often taken place within the context of some very intense family care conferences. I recognize that I’m present at these conferences as a professional member of the hospital staff and the patient’s care team. But I’m also something else, something other – a professional who is capable of doing and being something unique: a listening and caring presence that is an intermediary between the world of the hospital and that of the patient.

I think this unique role can best be illustrated by the fact that when a care conference ends I don’t exit with my fellow hospital professionals. I stay and make myself available to the family. This simple action conveys, I believe, something of the special role of the chaplain. We’re of the hospital yet we’re also of (and about) something other. And the thing is, I do this “something other” without offending my fellow hospital professionals; without “talking sides.” Indeed, as well as supporting, say, the family involved in a particularly tough case, I also often find myself having a quiet, supportive word with, say, a nurse who is also involved in this same difficult case.

I also think that being a professional in chaplain ministry means that you are available as a listening and grounding presence to everyone you encounter in the setting within which you’re working. For me in this past year, this has meant that I have authentically connected and interacted with janitorial staff, the folks in the gift store and the cafeteria, and a number of other colleagues with whom I’ve forged bonds of comradery and friendship. I have to say that I’ll miss seeing and interacting with all of these folks as they’ve become part of my daily life.

Well, as it turns out I will continue to see my colleagues and friends at Abbott Northern Hospital as from the beginning of October until early December, I will be covering for the Palliative Care Chaplain every Tuesday and Thursday. Such an arrangement is possible as my position at Mercy Hospital is a part-time one until January 1st next year.

For more on my experience of interfaith chaplaincy, see the previous Wild Reed posts:
Chaplaincy: A Ministry of Welcome
Interfaith Chaplaincy: Meeting People Where They're At
Spirituality and the Healthcare Setting
Out and About – Autumn 2016
Out and About – Spring 2017
Out and About – Autumn 2017
Out and About – Winter 2017-2018
Out and About – Spring 2018
Out and About – Summer 2018
The Prayer Tree
Beloved and Antlered
Welcoming the Return of Spring
Celebrating the Summer Solstice

Related Off-site Links:
From India to Iowa, the Value of Palliative Care – Katelyn Harrop and Ben Kieffer (Iowa Public Radio News, October 9, 2018).
How to Talk About Dying to Someone Who Is Dying – Francesca Gillett (BBC News, October 19, 2018).
“I’m a Friend at the End – Why I Became a Death Doula” – Richard Wagner (The Amateur's Guide to Death and Dying, October 23, 2018).
The Cost of Not Talking About Death to Dying Patients – Colleen Chierici (The Amateur's Guide to Death and Dying, October 15, 2018).
Transitions: My Autumn to Winter – Ashley T. Benem (A Sacred Passing, December 17, 2015).
Facing Mortality Head On – I. J. Woods (Conscious Departures, October 24, 2012).
Conversations That Matter – Catherine Musemeche (At the End of Life, September 6, 2012).
“Our Souls Reach Out for What’s Nourishing.” An Interview with Howard MansfieldAt the End of Life (May 18, 2012).