Friday, November 30, 2018

Autumnal (and Rather Pagan) Thoughts on the Making of “All Things New”

In his latest book, On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity and Getting Old, author and educator Parker Palmer writes at one point of the "endless interplay of darkness and light, falling and rising" that the seasons of the natural world, autumn in particular, instruct us in.

Parker's musings remind me of Thomas Moore's contention that the "circling of nature, inner and outer, may be the best way to find our substance."

Of course, such looking toward and into nature for insight, wisdom, and truth reflects a very pagan attitude toward and response to life, creation, and the human condition. To be clear: like other spiritual paths, the pagan path seeks, discerns, and responds to the Divine Presence. What is perhaps unique about paganism, however, is that it is a spiritual path that recognizes the Divine Presence in all things, though particularly in the natural world – the elements, the cycle of the seasons, and the inherent diversity of life. Paganism recognizes and celebrates that there is an elemental power and beauty in all of these things, a grounding power and beauty that paradoxically transcends religious doctrine and dogma.

I was reminded of all this as I read that part of Parker's book which I share below. This excerpt is accompanied by images of autumnal beauty that I captured over the last two months or so around Minnehaha Creek, close to my home in south Minneapolis.


I’m a professional melancholic, and for years my delight in the autumn color show quickly morphed into sadness as I watched the beauty die. Focused on the browning of summer’s green growth, I allowed the prospect of death to eclipse all that’s life-giving about the fall and its sensuous delights.

Then I began to understand a simple fact: all the “falling” that’s going on out there is full of promise. Seeds are being planted and leaves are being composted as earth prepares for yet another uprising of green.

Today, as I weather the late autumn of my own life, I find nature a trustworthy guide. It’s easy to fixate on everything that goes to the ground as time goes by: the disintegration of a relationship, the disappearance of good work well done, the diminishment of a sense of purpose and meaning. But as I’ve come to understand that life “composts” and “seeds” us as autumn does the earth, I’ve seen how possibility gets planted in us even in the hardest of times.

Looking back, I see how the job I lost pushed me to find work that was mine to do, how the “Road Closed” sign turned me toward terrain that I’m glad I traveled, how losses that felt irredeemable forced me to find new sources of meaning. In each of these experiences, it felt as though something was dying, and so it was. Yet deep down, amid all the falling, the seeds of new life were always being silently and lavishly sown.

. . . Perhaps death possesses a grace that we who fear dying, who find it ugly and even obscene, cannot see. How shall we understand nature’s testimony that dying itself – as devastating as we know it can be – contains the hope of a certain beauty?

The closest I’ve ever come to answering that question begins with these words from Thomas Merton, “There is in all visible things . . . a hidden wholeness.” [Thomas Merton, “Hagia Sophia,” in A Thomas Merton Reader, ed. Thomas P. McDonnell (Doubleday: 1989), 506.]

In the visible world of nature, a great truth is concealed in plain sight. Diminishment and beauty, darkness and light, death and life are not opposites: they are held together in the paradox of the “hidden wholeness.” In a paradox, opposites do not negate each other – they co-habit and co-create in mysterious unity at the heart of reality. Deeper still, they need each other for health, just as our well-being depends on breathing in and breathing out.

. . . When I give myself over to organic reality – to the endless interplay of darkness and light, falling and rising – the life I am given is as real and colorful, fruitful and whole as this graced and graceful world and the seasonal cycles that make it so. Though I still grieve as beauty goes to ground, autumn reminds me to celebrate the primal power that is forever making all things new in me, in us, and in the natural world.

– Parker Palmer
Excerpted from On the Brink of Everything:
Grace, Gravity and Getting Old

pp. 165-167, 168

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Thomas Moore on the Circling of Nature as the Best Way to Find Our Substance
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond
O Sacred Season of Autumn
"Thou Hast Thy Music Too"
Autumn Beauty
Autumn Leaves
Autumn Hues
Autumn Dance
The Prayer Tree Aflame
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond (2016)

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Something to Think About . . .

Related Off-site Links:
How We Treat Immigrants Is How We Treat God – Stephen Mattson (Sojourners, June 25, 2018).
What’s Your Immigration Status? Divine – Octavio Javier Esqueda (Christianity Today, September 6, 2017).
A Church Put Jesus in a Cage to Protest Immigration Policies. Now, He's Been Replaced with a Mirror – Jessica Campisi and Saeed Ahmed (CNN, July 27, 2018).
Mother in Migrant Caravan Makes Appeal to Trump: "Open the Doors for Us, I Beg You"CBS News (November 17, 2018).
Immigration, Families, and Jesus – John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera (Breakpoint, March 19, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Prayer for Asylum Seekers Being Tear-Gassed at the Border
Opposing the Trump Administration's Inhumane Treatment of Immigrant Families
"What We're Seeing Here Is a Tipping Point"
Jeremy Scahill on the Historical Context of the Trump Administration's "Pathologically Sick" Anti-Immigrant Agenda
Something to Think About – July 10, 2018
Something to Think About – June 20, 2018
Something to Think About – June 14, 2018
Something to Think About – December 25, 2012
No Room for Them
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Reflections on Babel and the Borders Within
2000+ Take to the Streets of Minneapolis to Express Solidarity with Immigrants and Refugees
Fasting, Praying, and Walking for Immigration Reform
A Prayer for Refugees

Monday, November 26, 2018

A Prayer for Asylum Seekers Being Tear-Gassed at the Border

Creator God, open our eyes so we can see you in the eyes of our migrant kin as they flee violence and seek asylum.

Compassionate God, open our ears to hear the cries of the suffering, children being tear-gassed and turned away at the border.

God of Justice, who crosses all boundaries, give us courage to resist, to say NO to criminalizing those legally seeking asylum.

Give us the strength to stand with and for your inclusive love, faith to believe another world is necessary and possible, and courage to speak truth to power.

Let it begin with us.



The situation in Tijuana is a humanitarian crisis. These are families that made an incredibly difficult decision to flee the conditions created by US imperialist policies in their homelands – and the US has a responsibility and the capability to help protect these people. The Trump Administration has already wasted nearly $300 million using the military as a political toy just to energize his base – attempting to villainize an extremely desperate/vulnerable population. Today the most powerful nation on Earth attacked peaceful people seeking asylum.

– Rob Wilson
via Facebook
November 25, 2018

NEXT: Something to Think About

Related Off-site Links:
U.S. Agents Shoot Tear Gas at Migrants Attempting to Breach Mexican Border – Associated Press/Reuters via ABC News (November 25, 2018).
U.S. Agents Fire Tear Gas as Some Migrants Try to Breach Fence – Christopher Sherman (Associated Press via PBS Newshour, November 26, 2018).
Children "Screaming and Coughing in the Mayhem" as Trump Border Patrol Fires Tear Gas Into MexicoCommon Dreams (November 25, 2018).
U.S. Agents Just Fired Tear Gas on Migrants Near the San Diego-Tijuana Border – Bryan Schatz (Mother Jones, November 25, 2018).
What Tear Gas Does to Its Victims – Bob Sorokanich (Gizmodo, August 14, 2014).
Trump Suggested Troops Will Shoot Migrants Who Throw Rocks at the Border – Brianna Sacks (Buzz Feed, November 2, 2018).
"Tear Gassing Children Is Outrageous and Inhumane": U.S. Condemned for Violence Against Asylum Seekers – Jon Queally (Common Dreams, November 26, 2018).
Fox News Contributor Tomi Lahren Says Watching Migrants Get Hit with Tear Gas Was "Highlight of My Thanksgiving Weekend" – Greg Price (Newsweek, November 26, 2018).
Conservatives Are Employing Any Possible Logic to Defend the Tear-Gassing of Migrants – Molly Olmstead (Slate, November 26, 2018).
I Traveled with the Migrant Caravan – Here Is the Story Behind the Photographs – Spencer Platt (Newsweek, November 26, 2018).
The Debt We Owe Central America – Miles Culpepper (Jacobin, November 1, 2018).

UPDATES: Congress Urged to Freeze Border Patrol Funding Until Trump Ends "Illegal" Treatment of Asylum Seekers at US-Mexico Border – Jake Johnson (Common Dreams, November 27, 2018).
Obama Administration Used Tear Gas and Pepper Spray at the Border Dozens of Time, CBP Data Shows – Chantal Da Silva (Newsweek, November 27, 2018).
Stop the Assault on Asylum Seekers – James Martin, S.J. (America, November 27, 2018).

Image 1: A migrant family, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, run away from tear gas in front of the border wall between the U.S and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. (Photo: Reuters)
Image 2: Tijuana, Mexico – November 25, 2018. (Photographer unknown)
Image 3: A migrant girl from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, cries after running away from tear gas thrown by the U.S. Border Control near the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico – November 25, 2018. (Photo by Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)
Images 4-5: Tijuana, Mexico – November 25, 2018. (Photographer unknown)
Image 6: Central American migrants run along the Tijuana River near the El Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, near the U.S.-Mexico border, after U.S. Border Patrol agents fired tear gas to disperse the group – November 25, 2018. (Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty)
Image 7: Rob Wilson.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Quote of the Day

Here’s the reality: unless the next Democratic president makes combating climate change a central feature of his or her platform (seriously combating climate change, not the half-measures and committees put forth by Democrats swimming in oil money), we’re all doomed. Hell, some scientists give our species a 50-50 chance of surviving the 21st century. . . . If Bernie Sanders is the only Democrat willing to put aggressive climate policies like the Green New Deal on his platform, then he’s the only Democrat who deserves to win in 2020. Period.

– Jacob Weindling
Excerpted from "Bernie Sanders Is Forcing a Debate
on Climate Change into the Democratic Mainstream
November 19, 2018

Related Off-site Links and Updates:
Inaction Over Climate Change Is Shameful – Martin Wolf (Financial Times, October 23, 2018).
Will Democrats Back a "Green New Deal"? – Sonali Kolhatkar (Common Dreams, November 24, 2018).
U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking Economy – Coral Davenport and Kendra Pierre-Louis (New York Times, November 23, 2018).
Fighting for the Climate: A Note from Post-Apocalyptic California – Cynthia Kaufman (Common Dreams, November 25, 2018).
Bernie Sanders Lays Out Bold 10-Point Plan for Democrats – Jon Queally (Common Dreams via TruthDig, November 23, 2018).
A Lot of People Want Bernie Sanders to Run in 2020 – Edward -Isaac Dovere (The Atlantic, November 25, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
As the World Burns, Calls for a "Green New Deal"
Quote of the Day – August 29, 2017
The People's Climate Solidarity March – Minneapolis, 4/29/17
The Paris Climate Talks, Multilateralism, and a "New Approach to Climate Action"
Earth Day 2017
"It Is All Connected"
Standing Together
Quote of the Day – September 19, 2014
Quote of the Day – May 31, 2011

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Maria by Callas: "Revelatory, Unprecedented, and Authoritative"

I saw the new documentary on Maria Callas this evening at the Edina Landmark Cinema.

Directed by Tom Volf and entitled Maria by Callas, it's a film that I highly recommend, especially if, like me, you are an admirer of Callas and are moved by her voice, her artistry, and her story. Maria by Callas is showing five times daily at the Edina Landmark thru Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 22). Check the cinema's website for times.

Below, with added images and links, is the film's official synopsis. It's followed by the official trailer. Enjoy!

Tom Volf’s Maria by Callas is the first film to tell the life story of the legendary Greek/American opera singer Maria Callas completely in her own words.

Her remarkable journey through stardom is told through performances, TV interviews, home movies, family photographs, private letters and unpublished memoirs – nearly all of which have never been seen by the public. Using this amazing range of sources, including a wealth of her musical performances, the film reveals the essence of an extraordinary woman who rose from humble beginnings in New York City to become a glamorous international superstar and one of the greatest artists of all time.

Assembling the material for the film took director Volf four years of painstaking research, which included personal outreach to dozens of Callas's closest friends and associates, who allowed him to share their personal memorabilia in the film. When recordings of Callas's voice aren't available, Joyce DiDonato, one of contemporary opera's biggest stars, reads her words.

Callas believed that two different women lived in her: Maria, the woman who longed for a normal life; and Callas, the public figure and icon, from which an adoring public expected a transcendent experience every time she stepped onstage, and which could quickly become outraged when they felt she had given them anything less.

Maria by Callas revisits many of the most notable controversies of Callas’s life, from the “Rome Cancellation” to her conflict with the Metropolitan Opera’s Rudolf Bing, and demonstrates that, while Callas was a demanding perfectionist, she was neither capricious nor someone who made trouble for its own sake.

The film also sheds new light on Callas’s relationship with Aristotle Onassis, the supreme love of her life.

Instead of trying to sum up her vast musical repertoire through countless clips, Volf instead presents some of her most important arias in their entirety.

Each aria is chosen for its significance for the period in Callas’s life during which she sang them. These arias include: “Casta Diva” (Norma), the “Habanera” (Carmen), and “Vissi d'arte” (Tosca).

Through hearing these full versions of Callas’s performances, the audience is able to experience a direct, unmediated response to her music, as the audiences of her time did.

Maria by Callas is a loving portrait of one of history’s most extraordinarily talented women, told in a way that is revelatory, unprecedented, and authoritative.

Related Off-site Links:
Maria by Callas: A Star Is Reborn in a Dense Portrait of the Opera Singer in Her Own Words – David Ehrlich (Indie Wire, October 8, 2018).
Demystifying a Diva in Maria by Callas – Ben Kenigsberg (The New York Times, November 1, 2018).
Maria by Callas Celebrates an Opera Icon in Her Own Words – Alessandra Codinha (Vogue, October 2, 2018).
Film Review: Maria by Callas – Scott Tobias (Variety, November 2, 2018).

For more of Maria Callas at The Wild Reed, see:
Remembering Maria . . . Celebrating Callas
Re-Visioning Callas
Remembering Callas
Callas Went Away
Maria Callas – "Ava Maria"
Callas Remembered
The Impossible Desire of Pier Paolo Pasolini
Europe 2005 – Part 6: Paris