Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Honoring An Icon

It’s been a month since news broke of actor Chadwick Boseman’s death at age 43 from colon cancer. Unbeknown to all but his family and medical team, Boseman had been living with the disease for the past four years.

I must admit I can still find myself experiencing a catch in my spirit whenever I am reminded that he is gone from this world; when I realize that apart from his posthumous appearance in the soon-to-be-released Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, we won’t see him again in a new movie. And most incredulously, we will never see him again in the role with which he will forever be celebrated, that of King T’Challa of Wakanda, aka Black Panther.

I’ve been giving some thought as to why Boseman’s death has had such an impact on me. I think a big part of it is that I’d developed a deep admiration for him as both an actor and a human being. He was a very humble, thoughtful, and caring man. I also resonate with both the story and the queer appeal of Black Panther, the film that made Boseman an international star.

In the weeks since his passing, all kinds of tributes and memorials have been made and created honoring Chadwick Boseman as both an accomplished actor and a generous and compassionate human being.

For instance, the image that opens this post depicts a recently unveiled mural in Disneyland that celebrates Boseman and the way he would visit and interact with children living with serious, often terminal illnesses – even as he himself privately struggled with cancer.

Boseman made a real difference in the lives of these children and their families, as numerous photos show (right and below) and family members themselves attest.

He truly was a living icon, which is to say that his life served as a window into the deeper meaning of why it is we're here.

To be an icon is to also choose to live in such a way that one’s life and example serve as a trail marker or guidepost for all who are longing to embark on any type of journey of transformation – their own and the world’s. In his all too brief life, Chadwick Boseman chose to work to become the hero of his own story, his own journey. And in doing so, he inspired others to become the hero of theirs.


Following are words and images that pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman – icon, guidepost, hero.

In a tragically brief but historically sweeping life as an actor, Boseman played men of public life and private pain. Before [news broke of his death], we didn’t know he, too, was bearing such a burden. That has only magnified his accomplishment, bringing him closer to the great figures whose shoes he wore on film. He played men who advanced a people’s progress, a trail he helped blaze himself. He played icons, and died one, too.

“There’s a lot to learn from Jackie Robinson. There’s a lot to learn from James Brown. There’s a lot to learn from Thurgood Marshall,” Boseman said [two years ago of the icons he has played]. “I would like to say that some of those qualities have infused themselves into me at this point.”

– Jake Coyle
Excerpted from “Chadwick Boseman Didn’t Just Play Icons. He Was One
Associated Press News
August 29, 2020

Each time [Chadwick] stepped on-set, he radiated charisma and joy, and each time he appeared onscreen, he created something truly indelible. He embodied a lot of amazing people in his work, and nobody was better at bringing great men to life. He was as smart and kind and powerful and strong as any person he portrayed.

– Kevin Feige
Marvel Studios Creative Officer

I always marveled at how special Chadwick was. Such a pure hearted, profoundly generous, regal, fun guy. My entire job as Okoye [in Black Panther] was to respect and protect a king. Honor his leadership. Chadwick made that job profoundly easy. He was the epitome of kindness, elegance, diligence and grace. On many an occasion I would think how thankful I was that he was the leading man I was working closely with. A true class act. And so perfectly equipped to take on the responsibility of leading the franchise that changed everything for Black representation.

He made everyone feel loved, heard and seen. He played great, iconic roles because he possessed inside of himself that connection to greatness to be able to so richly bring them to life. He had a heroic spirit, and marched to the beat of his own drum; hence his excellence as an artist and the incredible courage and determination as he faced life’s challenges; while still guiding us all.

– Danai Gurira
Quoted in Christian Spencer's article,
Danai Gurira: Chadwick Boseman Was Exactly Like Black Panther
The Grio
August 30, 2020

Sometimes it’s the small things that let you know the character of a person. There have been two times that I’ve been out in public where [Chadwick went] out of his way to say hello. This is after the major success of Black Panther. One of them was at the airport. I was coming in, he was coming out. Another time, we were literally on the street. He was just always sending love and sending vibes and checking in on you. I’m like, there must be 10,000 people in your life every day, but you would still take time to reach out to people and to connect with them.

– Aakomon Jones
Quoted in Matthew Jacobs's article,
How Chadwick Boseman’s Humility Made Him A Star
The Huffington Post
September 2, 2020

Above: Brooklyn artist Kenny Altidor stands alongside his latest mural, one dedicated to Chadwick Boseman. According to the Brooklyn Paper, the mural, on the wall of Family Altagracia Caribbean Crusine on Clarendon Road and East 56th St., East Flatbush, gained wide praise from the community. (Photo: Lloyd Mitchell)

Below: The mural of Chadwick Boseman that appeared in Cambridge, MA’s “Graffiti Alley” in early September. (Photo: Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)

I thought back to all his performance and all those incredible people he’s played, and I realized I don’t think you can do it as convincingly as he did if he did not possess that same grace in real life. You can’t act that.

Above: The “Be Your Higher Self / Chadwick Boseman / Black Panther” mural by Rahmaan Statik, located at 89th and Commercial SE in Chicago IL. (Photo: Rahmaan Statik)

Murals dedicated to Chadwick Boseman have not only appeared in cities across the U.S., including Nashville and Dallas, but have also been created across the globe – in Brazil and the United Kingdom, for instance.

One of the last times we spoke, you said we were forever linked, and now the truth of that means more to me than ever. since nearly the beginning of my career, starting with All My Children when I was 16 years old [taking over a role from Boseman], you paved the way for me. You showed me how to be better, honor purpose and create legacy. . . . Everything you’ve given the world – the legends and heros that you’ve shown us we are – will live on forever. But the thing that hurts the most is that I now understand how much of a legend and hero YOU are. Through it all, you never lost sight of what you loved most. You cared about your family, your friends, your craft, your spirit. You cared about the kids, the community, our culture and humanity. You cared about me. You are my big brother, but I never fully got a chance to tell you or truly give you your flowers while you were here. I wish we had more time.

Above: Chadwick with Rachel Robinson, the widow of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, whom he portrayed in the 2013 film 42.

He brought grace, elegance and power to everything he did. He always seemed to carry our ancestors with him. And now he joins them far too soon.

NEXT: Chadwick Boseman’s Timeless Message to
Young Voters: “You Can Turn Our Nation Around”

Related Off-site Links and Updates:
Black Panther Star Chadwick Boseman Dies of Cancer at 43 – Ryan Pearson (Associated Press, August 28, 2020).
Ryan Coogler Pens Powerful Tribute To Chadwick Boseman: “Chad Is An Ancestor Now”Shadow and Act (August 30, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman's Career Highlights and Personal AchievementsABC News (August 29, 2020).
How Chadwick Boseman Embodies Black Male Dignity – Reggie Ugwu (The New York Times, January 2, 2019).
Danai Gurira: Chadwick Boseman Was Exactly Like Black Panther – Christian Spencer (The Grio, August 30, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman in His Own Words – James Doubek (NPR News, August 30, 2020).
How Chadwick Boseman’s Humility Made Him a Star – Matthew Jacobs (The Huffington Post, September 2, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman: The Lasting Impact of a Life Well-Lived – Tiffany Johnson (Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, September 3, 2020).
He Makes You Think He’s Lost When He’s Won: On Chadwick Boseman – Soma Ghosh (The Quietus, September 4, 2020).
Remembering the Joy, Strength and Inspiration of Chadwick Boseman – Moira Macdonald (Seattle Times, September 13, 2020).
This Will Be Chadwick Boseman's Final Movie – Shane O'Neill (Looper, August 29, 2020).
Disneyland Unveils a Beautiful Mural Honoring Chadwick Boseman – Tonja Renée Stidhum (The Root, September 28, 2020).
Sienna Miller Says Chadwick Boseman Gave Her Some of His Salary on 21 Bridges So She Could Be Paid Fairly For the Movie – Jason Guerrasio (Insider, September 28, 2020).
First Look: Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Kyle Buchanan (The New York Times, September 30, 2020).
“A Man With a Purpose”: Chadwick Boseman’s Life’s Work Is Far From Over – Kate Storey (Esquire, October 6, 2020).
Spike Lee on Chadwick Boseman in Da 5 Bloods: “If I Had Known, I Wouldn't Have Made Him Do the Stuff”Shadow and Act (October 7, 2020).
Could Chadwick Boseman Be the First Person to Earn Two Posthumous Oscar Acting Nominations in Same Year? – Clayton David (Variety, October 15, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Remembering Chadwick Boseman
The Important Cultural Moment That Is Black Panther
Celebrating Black Panther – Then and Now
“Avengers Assemble!”
Jason Johnson on Stan Lee's Revolutionary Legacy
Another First for Black Panther
“Something Special,” Indeed!
Queer Black Panther

Monday, September 28, 2020

Quote of the Day

I hope everyone realizes that all we need to mitigate the Supreme Court is an effective Congress. Women’s rights, healthcare, civil rights, etc, could be completely memorialized and protected tomorrow if Congress legislated it properly, and there would be nothing the Court could do about it. So, stop fretting over a qualified Amy Coney Barrett; vote the bastards out of Congress and let’s get real government going in November.

– Charlie Stuart

Related Off-site Links:
Trump Selects Amy Coney Barrett to Fill Ginsburg’s Seat on the Supreme Court – Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman (The New York Times, September 25, 2020).
Amy Coney Barrett Is an Extremist – Just Not the Kind You Think – Elie Mystal (The Nation, September 25, 2020).
How “Extremist” Amy Coney Barrett Could Reshape the Supreme Court and Hand Trump the ElectionDemocracy Now! (September 28, 2020).
Progressives Warn Barrett's Right-Wing Ideology and Past Rulings Signal She Could Intentionally “Make the Country a More Unjust Place” – Jessica Corbett (Common Dreams, September 28, 2020).
Why Amy Coney Barrett’s Religious Beliefs Aren’t Off Limits – Massimo Faggioli (Politico, September 24, 2020).
A Catholic's Case Against Amy Coney Barrett – Frank Cocozzelli (Daily Kos, September 26, 2020).

UPDATE: Amy Coney Barrett Is Not a Feminist Icon – Emily Peck (Common Dreams, September 29, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Hold Them to Their Word
“We Have an Emergency On Our Hands”: Marianne Williamson On the “Freefall” of American Democracy
The “Freefall” Continues
Fascism Is Upon Us
A Means to the End (of the Trump Presidency)
Eight Leading Progressive Voices on Why They're Voting for Biden
Rep. Ilhan Omar Responds to President Trump’s Authoritarian Threats

Image: Kristen Solberg.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Rep. Ilhan Omar Responds to President Trump’s Authoritarian Threats

Related Off-site Links:
Trump Won't Commit to Peaceful Transfer of PowerBBC World News (September 24, 2020).
Ilhan Omar Interview: Trump Is a Racist Tyrant – But America Is Strong Enough to Survive His Presidency – Richard Hall (Independent, September 17, 2020).
Rep. Ilhan Omar on Trump's Racist Attack: “He Spreads the Disease of Hate” – Veronica Stracqualursi (CNN News, September 23, 2020).
Trump Is an Authoritarian. So Are Millions of Americans – Matthew C. MacWilliams (Politico, September 23, 2020).
“The Election That Could Break America”: Inside How Trump and the Republican Party Could Steal the VoteDemocracy Now! (September 25, 2020).
Bernie Sanders Has Given Us a Tool Kit for Defending Against Trump’s Threat to Democracy – John Nichols (The Nation, September 25, 2020).
“This Is How You Normalize a Madman”: Scholars and Press Watchdogs Call on Corporate Media to Treat Trump Like the Authoritarian Threat He IsCommon Dreams, September 25, 2020).
We Are Well Past Warning Shots – Dan Rather (News and Guts, September 24, 2020).
Trump Wants to Steal the Election. Only We Can Stop Him – Eric Blanc (Jacobin, September 24, 2020).
Trump’s “Anarchist Jurisdictions” Are a Dangerous Ploy to Crush Dissent – Kim Kelly (NBC News, September 22, 2020).
Historians and Election Experts Warn Trump Is Behaving Like Mussolini and Despots That the U.S. Usually Condemns – John Haltiwanger (Business Insider, September 25, 2020).
Donald Trump vs Democracy: President’s Attacks on the 2020 Election Explained – Richard Hall (Independent, September 23, 2020).
Journalists Need to Be Clear About a Clear Threat to Democracy – Joshua Cho (FAIR, September 15, 2020).
Trump Endorses Extrajudicial Executions: Killing of Antifa Suspect Was “Retribution” – Daniel Politi (Slate, September 13, 2020).
Roger Stone Calls for Trump to Declare "Martial Law" If He Loses the Election – and Order Arrests of Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook, and the Clintons – Tom Porter (Business Insider, September 13, 2020).
When Good People Don’t Act, Evil Reigns – Charles M. Blow (The New York Times, September 13, 2020).
This Election Is a Referendum on Who Is Allowed to Break the Law – Nathan Schneider (America, September 11, 2020).
Trump Would Choose Ending U.S. Democracy Over Going to Prison – Jake Thomas (The Intellectualist, July 17, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Fascism Is Upon Us
“We Have an Emergency On Our Hands”: Marianne Williamson On the “Freefall” of American Democracy
The “Freefall” Continues
Eight Leading Progressive Voices on Why They’re Voting for Biden
“The Republican Party Has Now Made It Official: They Are a Cult”
Trump's Playbook
Progressive Perspectives on the Rise of Donald Trump
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump
On International Human Rights Day, Saying “No” to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence
Global Condemnation for Trump's Latest Ignorant and Racist Comments
Quotes of Note Regarding the Impeachment of President Trump
Quotes of Note Regarding the Senate’s Impeachment Trial of President Trump
Progressive Perspectives on Corruption in U.S. Politics

For more of Rep. Ilhan Omar at The Wild Reed, see:
Quote of the Day: Ilhan Omar – 8/11/20
Ricardo Levins Morales on the “Deepest Political Fault Line” Separating Democrats Ilhan Omar and Antone Melton-Meaux
To Whom the Future of America Belongs
Ilhan Omar: Quote of the Day – 4/13/19
Ilhan Omar: Stepping Into Her Power
Juan Cole: Quote of the Day – 2/11/19
Progressive Perspectives on the Ilhan Omar “Controversy”
Ilhan Omar on The Daily Show

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Marianne Williamson on America’s “Cults of Madness”

The QAnon conspiracy theory and its growing influence in some spheres of American political life has recently been in the news here in Minnesota.

Last Tuesday the Star Tribune reported that six Republican-endorsed candidates for the Minnesota legislature have expressed support for QAnon online.

QAnon is a far-right conspiracy theory alleging that a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotting against President Donald Trump. In leading the battle against this cabal, the conspiracy purports, Trump is leading the country to a “day of reckoning,” one which will involve the mass arrest of journalists and politicians. Despite no part of the theory being based on fact, many people, including Trump, have embraced it.

QAnon has been likened to a virtual cult and has been labeled a potential domestic terrorist threat by the FBI.

One of the best rebuttals to and analyses of QAnon that I've come across is by author, activist, and former Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson. Following is an excerpt from Marianne's August 26, 2020 Newsweek op-ed, “America’s Cults of Madness.”


Cults like QAnon are not simply a political issue; first and foremost, they are a psychological issue. In truth, whole civilizations have been seized by bouts of collective psychosis throughout history. The Inquisition, the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide are prime examples. Although those horrific phenomena came to an end, the underlying forces from which they emerged have not been expunged from human consciousness. In fact, part of the problem is that, with the characteristic arrogance of the modern materialistic mind, too many have thought our civilization too “evolved” to have to worry about such things. Surely we're too advanced to fall collectively for mental madness, as long as rational thinking prevails. Oh, really? Are not some chinks in the armor beginning to appear?

Centuries ago, long before the birth of Sigmund Freud, mental health and mental dysfunction existed just as they do now. Yet our forebears didn't have psychological jargon with which to describe such inner realities; they simply called them angels and demons, both of which they saw as elements of the soul. Our political establishment has laughed off such notions with a psychological naïveté masquerading as intellectual sophistication. Yet our failure to deeply understand something doesn't mean that that something does not exist.

America's cults of madness are opportunistic infections, collective dysfunctions that have resulted from the sickness of our nation's psyche, or soul. But health is not an absence of sickness so much as sickness is an absence of health. To say our nation's soul needs healing is absolutely true, but it's not going to happen without a deeper understanding of what it means. The reason our nation's soul is sick is because it hasn't been healthy for a while. America doesn't just have a pandemic, a broken economy or a tyrannical president to deal with. We have a collective mental health issue that is hiding in plain sight.

A healthy soul is characterized by happiness, generosity toward self and others, expanded compassion, creativity and life-giving productivity. For those who wish to see ourselves and our fellow citizens living those words, and our society blessed and maintained by their existence, it's time to ask ourselves with brutal honesty: Is America organized politically, socially or economically to align with any of those things? Are the psychological principles that guide our nation's policies the stuff of a healthy soul? It is not enough to be reasonable. Reason disconnected from values can produce unreasonable results.

The same psychological principles that prevail within an individual's life prevail within the life of a nation. As ancients knew, matters of the psyche are matters of the soul, and a nation, just like an individual, has one. Chronic suffering is damaging to the soul, regardless where it came from. Numerous factors – despair, anxiety and fear experienced by millions of people on a regular basis as the direct and indirect results of our loveless, amoral economic organizing principles – have so destroyed our country's psychic immune system as to make opportunistic infections, such as cults of madness, simply to be expected.

Such things as QAnon, Nazism and cult followings of a nationalistic leader are hydra that cannot simply be cast away by our rationalistic notions of problem solving. Having had its head cut off, it is the very nature of a hydra to simply grow another two.

Only when we decide as a society to actively align our policies with the tenets of a healthy soul – putting kindness, love, mercy and compassion over cutthroat attitudes that put glorification of self over a commitment to the love that binds us as one, not only in our private behavior but in our political and economic behavior as well – will our wounded soul begin to heal itself. The truest thing that can be said about America's soul right now is that we have sold it. Our government has sold its soul. American capitalism has sold its soul. The false god of short-term corporate profit, feeding off the legitimization of greed and the financialization of almost every single thing, has made a petri dish of us, out of which has emerged the symptoms of our national sickness.

Yet the symptoms alone are not the deeper problem. It is their cause – our idolization of the things of the world over the things of spirit, our deference to money before our deference to love, our lack of reverence and the de-sacralization of nature – that has compromised our immune system and now threatens to destroy us. Each of us has a role to play in the healing of our nation's soul, from increasing our capacity for kindness, to committing to the collective and political changes that will realign our nation with the angels of our better nature. Until and unless we do so, the manifestations of collective fear will continue to grow and will possibly overwhelm us. The only real remedy is an awakening of the heart and the manifestations of collective love.

– Marianne Williamson
Excerpted from “America’s Cults of Madness
August 26, 2020

Related Off-site Links and Updates:
Trump's QAnon Followers Are a Dangerous Cult. How to Save Someone Who's Been Brainwashed – Steven Hassan (NBC News, September 11, 2020).
Friends and Family Members of QAnon Believers Are Going Through a “Surreal Goddamn Nightmare” – Jane Lytvynenko (BuzzFeed, September 18, 2020).
We Need To Save The Children From QAnons – John Pavlovitz (JohnPavlovitz.com, September 13, 2020).
QAnon Is a Nazi Cult, Rebranded – Gregory Stanton (JustSecurity.org, September 9, 2020).
How Conspiracy Theories Are Shaping the 2020 Election – and Shaking the Foundation of American Democracy – Charlotte Alter (TIME, September 10, 2020).
The QAnon Questions – Clint Watts (The Gist, September 10, 2020).
Facebook Bans QAnon Across All Its PlatformsAxios (October 6, 2020).
Where's Q? Child Sex Trafficking Prosecutions Fell Under Trump – Jake Thomas (The Intellectualist, October 6, 2020).
Online Misinformation Is Rampant. Four Tips on Stopping It – Sarah Matusek (The Christian Science Monitor, November 3, 2020).
QAnon Goes to Washington – Heather Cox Richardson (BillMoyers.com, January 28, 2021).

See also:
A Conversation with Marianne Williamson on Our Nation's Past, Present, and Future – Corbin Trent (Building the Dream, September 10, 2020).
Marianne Williamson Talks About Continuing Her Political Work – Joaquin Romero (MediaFocus.org, September 10, 2020).

Image: Conspiracy theorist QAnon demonstrators protest on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles on August 22, 2020. (Photo: Kyle Grillot/AFP/Getty)

Friday, September 25, 2020

“One of the Most Beautiful Songs Ever Produced”

For “Music Night” this evening at The Wild Reed, I share a song from my childhood – Judie Tzuke's 1979 recording, “Stay With Me Till Dawn.”

About this song, one contemporary commentator notes:

This is still one of the most beautiful songs ever produced. It touches the soul.

I couldn't agree more. Indeed, in terms of hauntingly beautiful songs of the 1970s, Judi Tzuke's “Stay With Me Till Dawn” is up there with Cat Stevens' “How Can I Tell You?,” Kiki Dee's “Amoureuse,” and Kate Bush's “The Man With the Child In His Eyes.”

Notes Wikipedia:

Written by Tzuke and Mike Paxman and produced by John Punter, "Stay with Me Till Dawn" was Tzuke's only Australian and UK top 40 single, charting at number 8 and 16 respectively. . . . In 2002, [the song] was chosen by the British public as the thirty-ninth best song to have come out of Britain over the previous fifty years (between 1952 and 2002).

Related Off-site Links:
Judi Tzuke's Official Website
Judie Tzuke's The Chrysalis Recordings Highlights Her Early ‘80s Transition to Synthpop – Charles Donovon (Pop Matters, June 17, 2020).
This Much I Know: Singer-songwriter Judie Tzuke – Hilary Fennell (Irish Examiner, October 6, 2018).
Review: Judie Tzuke at Lowdham Village Hall – Mark Salter (Gedling Eye, July 4, 2018).
Judie Tzuke, Beverley Craven and Julia Fordham Team Up for a Supergroup TourSmoothRadio.com (April 6, 2018).
Judie Tzuke Talks About Her Cancer and Her Acoustic Comeback at Sage Gateshead – David Whetstone (Chronicle Live, March 30, 2016).

Previously featured musicians at The Wild Reed:
Dusty Springfield | David Bowie | Kate Bush | Maxwell | Buffy Sainte-Marie | Prince | Frank Ocean | Maria Callas | Loreena McKennitt | Rosanne Cash | Petula Clark | Wendy Matthews | Darren Hayes | Jenny Morris | Gil Scott-Heron | Shirley Bassey | Rufus Wainwright | Kiki Dee | Suede | Marianne Faithfull | Dionne Warwick | Seal | Sam Sparro | Wanda Jackson | Engelbert Humperdinck | Pink Floyd | Carl Anderson | The Church | Enrique Iglesias | Yvonne Elliman | Lenny Kravitz | Helen Reddy | Stephen Gately | Judith Durham | Nat King Cole | Emmylou Harris | Bobbie Gentry | Russell Elliot | BØRNS | Hozier | Enigma | Moby (featuring the Banks Brothers) | Cat Stevens | Chrissy Amphlett | Jon Stevens | Nada Surf | Tom Goss (featuring Matt Alber) | Autoheart | Scissor Sisters | Mavis Staples | Claude Chalhoub | Cass Elliot | Duffy | The Cruel Sea | Wall of Voodoo | Loretta Lynn and Jack White | Foo Fighters | 1927 | Kate Ceberano | Tee Set | Joan Baez | Wet, Wet, Wet | Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy | Fleetwood Mac | Jane Clifton | Australian Crawl | Pet Shop Boys | Marty Rhone | Josef Salvat | Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri | Aquilo | The Breeders | Tony Enos | Tupac Shakur | Nakhane Touré | Al Green | Donald Glover/Childish Gambino | Josh Garrels | Stromae | Damiyr Shuford | Vaudou Game | Yotha Yindi and The Treaty Project | Lil Nas X | Daby Touré | Sheku Kanneh-Mason | Susan Boyle | D’Angelo | Little Richard | Black Pumas | Mbemba Diebaté

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

A Prayer of Autumn Welcoming

Welcome, Autumn, arms full of summer’s blessing,
carrying the seeds of life for next year’s planting.
Come, enter my home with your golden wisdom;
be my guest and share my table.

Welcome, Old Wise One,
may I be your student in the school of gratitude.
Guide me in reflecting upon the summer now gone,
that I might give thanks for all the many gifts
that have enriched me in that season of growth.

I greet you, spirits of darkness
that dwell in the night and within me.
While you are frightening, you are also a source of power;
may I not fear you
but learn to live in holy harmony with you;
you are not evil unless you dominate me.
Night within me, I welcome you as well;
may all your spirits that reside in me
live in harmony with the Spirit of the Holy.

– Edward Hays
(from Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim)

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
O Sacred Season of Autumn
“Thou Hast Thy Music Too”
Autumn’s Wordless Message
Autumn – Within and Beyond (2018)
Autumn – Within and Beyond (2016)
Autumnal (and Rather Pagan) Thoughts on the Making of “All Things New”
Autumn Psalm
Autumn Beauty
Autumn Leaves
Autumn Hues
Autumn by the Creek
From the River to the Falls
Autumn Dance
An Autumn Walk by Minnehaha Creek
The Last of Autumn’s Hues
“This Autumn Land Is Dreaming”

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Mysticism and Revolution

Jesus was a revolutionary, who did not become an extremist, since he did not offer an ideology, but Himself. He was also a mystic, who did not use his intimate relationship with God to avoid the social evils of his time, but shocked his milieu to the point of being executed as a rebel. . . . Every real revolutionary is challenged to be a mystic at heart, and he who walks the mystical way is called to unmask the illusory quality of human society. Mysticism and revolution are two aspects of the same attempt to bring about radical change. No mystic can prevent himself from becoming a social critic, since in self-reflection he will discover the roots of a sick society. Similarly, no revolutionary can avoid facing his own human condition, since in the midst of his struggle for a new world he will find that he is also fighting his own reactionary fears and false ambitions.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Jesus: Mystic and Prophet
Called to the Field of Compassion to Be Both Prophet and Mystic
Why Jesus Is My Man
The Model of Leadership Offered by Jesus

For more of Henri Nouwen's wisdom at The Wild Reed, see:
And As We Dance
Active Waiting: A Radical Attitude Toward Life
A Guidepost on the Journey
To Be Held and to Hold
Lent with Henri
In the Garden of Spirituality – Henri Nouwen

Image: Artist unknown.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

From the Palliative/Spiritual Care Shelf

I continue today my series that highlights the wisdom found on my bookshelf at work. As most reading this would know, my “work,” since September 2018, is that of a palliative care interfaith chaplain at a hospital just north of the Twin Cities.

In this sixth installment I share an excerpt from Richard F. Groves and Henriette Anne Klauser’s book, The American Book of Living and Dying: Lessons in Healing Spiritual Pain, described by Richard Rohr, O.F.M. as an “excellent and very readable book [that] finds new ways to create life even out of death . . . [and] opens avenues of healing and hope.”

(NOTE: To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)


Many of the ancient texts focused on a person’s journey into the afterlife, yet they also taught lessons about how to deal with the process of death and dying. During the final phase of dying, called the death vigil, our ancestors believed that it took an entire village to help someone die well.

There are remarkable connections between the Egyptian manuals for the dying and the Hebrew Psalter, as well as parallels among Taoist, Buddhist, and early Christian writings. Similarities found in ancient Celtic, Middle Eastern, and Western Monastic traditions are too specific to be coincidental. Such cultural cross-pollination points to a collective wisdom among our ancestors about what brings peace at the end of life. Parallels extend to rituals for grieving that include the Mexican Dia de los Muertos, the Native American potlatch, and the annual August Japanese O-Bon festival.

Our ancestors had a relentless commitment to the elusive thing we yearn for in the West – a peaceful death. Through centuries of careful observations, they created an entire language to name the gradations of the dying process. In hospice circles today we refer to a patient’s final stage with a single phrase: active dying. The ancients on the other hand found a detailed vocabulary to describe the many and distinct stages at the end of life. Both the Western monastic and the Tibetan Buddhist traditions include forty or more stages in the life-to-death transition. Each of these phases is associated with a particular set of tools to support both patient and caregiver.

Because the books of the dead span diverse spiritual and cultural traditions, not to mention distances of centuries and geography, we would expect differences in content and philosophy. More surprising are the similarities. Here are key underlying points that show up consistently. In other words, this is the common ground of our collective human experience at the end of life.

• It is a priority that human beings assist each other as coaches or midwives through the stages of dying. To be proactively involved in the death of another human being is the ultimate act of love. The ancient books of the dying were not just for an esoteric few. There was an overriding desire to disseminate the knowledge of these traditions among average laypersons. And it was essential to include both family and friends throughout the death and dying process.

• There are certain observable and universal patterns or stages in the life-to-death transition process. Human beings have always died in essentially the same way. Our common experience has been documented for millennia. The good news is that these patterns can help us to anticipate and support the various changes that body, mind, and spirit inevitably seem to face in the process of letting go.

• There is a clear relationship between physical and emotional pain. Relieving suffering at the end of life requires a holistic approach that acknowledged both dimensions of body and spirit. There is a difference between healing and curing. It is always possible to be getting well in the midst of serious illness.

• It is necessary first to diagnose spiritual pain before attempting to respond to it. The records of antiquity point to certain universal experiences or names for spiritual pain and suffering. Helping the dying person to identify spiritual pain gives the caregiver important clues as to appropriate means of support.

• A “good death” is defined as our ability to maintain a sense of clear knowing or consciousness at the end of life. Medicine is effective when it controls pain without compromising clarity of consciousness. The unfinished tasks at the end of life often hold the key to spiritual suffering. Other cultures insist that the goal of dying well is to help a person die – con los ojos abiertos, in the Latino tradition, or “with our eyes open,” in the Buddhist tradition.

• Some form of consciousness survives the death of our physical body. What is death? For most of human history death was not the opposite of life, but the opposite of birth. In ancient times, theological language provided the primary answer to this question. Nearly fifteen million Americans who have survived a near-death experience describe similar phenomena, regardless of their belief systems.

• We prepare throughout our lifetime for our dying. Standing before the mystery of death had the same impact on our ancestors as witnessing the mystery of birth. In such a twilight place, it is as if time itself stands still to allow the survivors to reflect on life’s bigger questions. Death has the power to heal because it has the power to put life into perspective and to bring forth life’s important priorities. The art of dying can become the art of living.

– Richard F. Groves and Henriette Anne Klauser
Excerpted from The American Book of Living and Dying:
Lessons in Healing Spiritual Pain

pp. 34-36


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
From the Palliative/Spiritual Care Bookshelf – Part I | II | III | IV | V
Chaplaincy: A Ministry of Welcome
Interfaith Chaplaincy: Meeting People Where They're At
Spirituality and the Healthcare Setting
World Hospice and Palliative Care Day
Resilience and Hope
The Calm Before the Storm
Arthur Kleinman on the “Soul of Care”
George Yancy on the “Unspoken Reality of Death”
“Call Upon Those You Love”

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Hold Them to Their Word

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 1933-2020

It has been 80 years since a Supreme Court vacancy was nominated and confirmed in an election year. There is a long tradition that you don’t do this in an election year.

– Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas (2016)

If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait to the next election.

– Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. (2018)

I don’t think we should be moving on a nominee in the last year of this president’s term - I would say that if it was a Republican president.

– Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. (2016)

The very balance of our nation’s highest court is in serious jeopardy. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I will do everything in my power to encourage the president and Senate leadership not to start this process until we hear from the American people.

– Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga. (2016)

A lifetime appointment that could dramatically impact individual freedoms and change the direction of the court for at least a generation is too important to get bogged down in politics. The American people shouldn’t be denied a voice.

– Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa (2016)

The campaign is already under way. It is essential to the institution of the Senate and to the very health of our republic to not launch our nation into a partisan, divisive confirmation battle during the very same time the American people are casting their ballots to elect our next president.

– Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. (2016)

In this election year, the American people will have an opportunity to have their say in the future direction of our country. For this reason, I believe the vacancy left open by Justice Antonin Scalia should not be filled until there is a new president.

– Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. (2016)

The Senate should not confirm a new Supreme Court justice until we have a new president.

– Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. (2016)

I think we’re too close to the election. The president who is elected in November should be the one who makes this decision.

– Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Col. (2016)

I believe the best thing for the country is to trust the American people to weigh in on who should make a lifetime appointment that could reshape the Supreme Court for generations. This wouldn’t be unusual. It is common practice for the Senate to stop acting on lifetime appointments during the last year of a presidential term, and it’s been nearly 80 years since any president was permitted to immediately fill a vacancy that arose in a presidential election year.

– Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio (2016)

I strongly agree that the American people should decide the future direction of the Supreme Court by their votes for president and the majority party in the U.S. Senate.

– Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc. (2016)

The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.

– Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. (2016)

Related Off-site Links:
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Champion of Gender Equality, Dies at 87 – Nina Totenberg (NPR News, September 18, 2020).
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court’s Feminist Icon, Is Dead at 87 – Linda Greenhouse (The New York Times, September 18, 2020).
Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Great Equalizer – Jill Lepore (The New Yorker, September 18, 2020).
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the End of the One Great Woman Myth – Melissa Gira Grant (New Republic, September 19, 2020).
Donald Trump to Put Forth Nominee to Replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Coming Days – John Santucci and Katherine Faulders (ABC News, September 18, 2020).
Mitch McConnell Says He’ll Make Sure Trump’s Replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg Gets a Vote – Li Zhou and Ella Nilsen (Vox, September 18, 2020).
McConnell Vows Quick Vote on Next Justice; Biden Says Wait – Jonathan Lemire and Lisa Mascaro (AP News, September 18, 2020).
If McConnell Packs the Court on Behalf of Minority Rule, Dems Must Expand and Reform It – Juan Cole (Informed Comment via Common Dreams, September 18, 2020).
At Least 4 GOP Senators Have Said They Will Oppose a Vote for a New Justice Before the Election – Jamie Gangel, Manu Raju and Lauren Fox (CNN News, September 18, 2020).
Unequal Justice: Trump’s Supreme Takeover– Bill Blum (The Progressive, September 18, 2020).
RBG – What Happens Next – Chris Thomas (Resist.bot, September 18, 2020).
The One Thing Democrats Can Do to Stop Trump From Replacing Justice Ginsburg – Ian Millhiser (Vox, September 19, 2020).
Death of RBG Sparks Senate Showdown and Calls for Supreme Court Reform – Jessica Corbett (Common Dreams, September 19, 2020).
Donald Trump Says He Will Replace US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg With a Woman — So Who Is That Likely to Be? – Sarah Scopelianos (ABC News, September 19, 2020).
Trump's Leading Pick to Replace RBG Believes Husbands Should Rule Over Wives – William James (The Intellectualist, September 19, 2020).

UPDATES: Ginsburg Vigil Draws Tears and Protests Against McConnell – Danielle Kurtzleben (NPR News, September 20, 2020).
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Is the First Woman Who Will Lie in State at the Capitol – John L. Dorman (Business Insider, September 21, 2020).
The Quieter Reason RBG’s Death Is Such a Blow – Mary Harris (Slate, September 21, 2020).
Amid the Outpouring for Ginsburg, a Hint of Backlash – Jennifer Schuessler (The New York Times, September 21, 2020).
As Trump Plans to Name Supreme Court Nominee This Week, 62% of Americans Oppose Plan to Confirm Ginsburg's Successor Before Election – Julie Conley (Common Dreams, September 21, 2020).
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Fight for Gender Equity was for All of Us – Ria Tabacco Mar (ACLU.org, September 22, 2020).
The RBG Legacy for Women of Color – Melba Pearson (The Miami Times, September 23, 2020).
With Romney's Support, GOP Likely Has Votes to Move Ahead With Ginsburg's Replacement – Brian Naylor (NPR News, September 22, 2020).
McConnell Is on the Losing Side of History – And He Knows It – John F. Harris (Politico, September 23, 2020).
Republicans Are Likely to Win the Battle to Replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There Are Three Things Democrats Could Do Next – Peter Marsh (ABC News, September 24, 2020).
Trump Selects Amy Coney Barrett to Fill Ginsburg’s Seat on the Supreme Court – Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman (The New York Times, September 25, 2020).

Image : U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Photo: Todd Heisler/The New York Times)