Saturday, October 23, 2021

Home to Myself


I turn 56 today, 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 and that speaks to where I’m at on my journey. [1]

This year I’ve decided to share a song from one of my all-time favorite female vocalists, Dusty Springfield (1939-1999).

My interest in and admiration for Dusty is well documented here at The Wild Reed, most notably in Soul Deep, one of my very first posts.

Other previous posts worth investigating, especially if you’re new to Dusty, are Dusty Springfield: Queer Icon, which features an excerpt from Laurence Cole’s book, Dusty Springfield: In the Middle of Nowhere; Celebrating Dusty (2017), which features an excerpt from Patricia Juliana Smith’s insightful article on Dusty’s “camp masquerades”; Celebrating Dusty (2013), which features excerpts from Annie J. Randall’s book, Dusty!: Queen of the Postmods; Remembering Dusty, my 2009 tribute to Dusty on the tenth anniversary of her death; and Remembering Dusty, 20 Years On, my 2019 tribute on the twentieth anniversary of her death.

And, of course, off-site there’s my website dedicated to Dusty, Woman of Repute (currently only accessible through the Internet archive service, The Way Back Machine). My website’s name is derived from Dusty’s 1990 album Reputation, and as I explain in Soul Deep, it was this album that introduced me not only to Dusty’s music but also to her life and journey – much of which resonated deeply with me. Indeed, my identification with aspects of Dusty’s journey played an important role in my coming out as a gay man.

The Dusty recording I share today on my 56th birthday is “Home to Myself,” a track recorded in 1974 for Dusty’s Longing album. [2]

Described by compilation producer Jim Pierson as “a warm statement of self-fulfilment,” the song “Home to Myself” very much speaks to where I’m currently at in my life: single, living alone but not lonely, mindful of “something inside making me strong,”. . . and, at a deep level, at peace with my life and journey. That’s not to say there are not certain things I’d like to see emerge in my life, but I take heart in something I read recently:

What’s meant for you will find you when the time is right.


I find I can more readily trust this statement, and thus live in what Henri Nouwen called “active waiting,” when I take the time to go within and get centered and still; when I “come home to myself” and thus align with the sacred source within me.

Dusty Springfield’s rendition of “Home to Myself” speaks to me of all of this. Perhaps it will do likewise for you.





Home to Myself
By Melissa Manchester and Carole Bayer Sager

I wake up and see
The light of the day
Shinin’ on me
Make my own time
It’s mine to spend
Think to myself
My own best friend
It’s not so bad all alone
Comin’ home to myself again

Oh, now I understand
Whatever I feel is whoever I am
Watchin’ my life and how it's grown
Lookin’ on back to friends I've known
It’s not so bad all alone
Comin’ home to myself again

Oh, it’s not so bad to get lost in my tears
And to laugh and to cry for the years gone by

Oh by, oh by now somehow I know
I’ve come a long way
Got a long way to go
But something inside
Is making me strong
And in the bad times
I’ll get along
It’s not so bad all alone
Comin’ home to myself again
Oh, I’m comin’ home



For me, “comin’ home to myself” means getting re-centered and re-energized so as to go back out into the world and be an embodiment of the Divine Presence. Alone time is needed for this, as I’ve discovered that the old adage is true: You can’t pour from an empty cup.

To be fully present to others in ways that I hope make a positive difference, I need time alone to first allow myself to be nourished and transformed. This is especially true for my work as a hospital chaplain. But it’s also true in my relationships with family and friends.

And speaking of friends, I’ve already started celebrating with a number of them my special day. And these gatherings and celebrations are going to continue throughout the next week, which I’ve taken off work – both to connect with friends I haven’t seen (or seen rarely) since the pandemic and to cultivate and experience some renewing alone time, something which, as Brigit Anna McNeill reminds us, nature itself at this time of year is calling us to do.

After all, nature here in the northern hemisphere is letting go of what it needs to let go of so as to prepare for the dark and cold of winter. And we too can follow nature’s example and shed what no longer serves us. For as McNeill wisely says:

What we work to shed, when shed in care and kindness, can be learned from, can be our compost, the learnings we grow from. For soon we will be asked to dream our seeds into being in the darker, quieter time of winter rest.


So that’s what I plan on starting to do during my quiet and alone times of the next week. But as a “soul dancer,” I know too the importance of balance, and so I’ll be spending time not only in solitude but also connecting meaningfully with friends, a connecting which, as you’ll see, is already happening in relation to celebrating my 56th birthday.


My birthday celebrations began on the evening of Wednesday, October 20, when my buddy Raul took me to see the “Immersive Van Gogh” exhibit (below) currently showing in Minneapolis. Raul then treated me to a delicious dinner at The Red Rabbit (above).


Notes the Star Tribune:

The “Immersive Van Gogh” exhibition takes viewers on a one-hour tour of about 400 of the artist’s paintings projected onto the walls, ceilings and floors of a one-time warehouse in northeast Minneapolis. Variations of “Immersive Van Gogh” have been shown at 29 cities in the United States, and 11 cities in Europe and Asia.

The show includes 500,000 cubic feet of projections, 60,600 frames of video and 90,000,000 pixels that promise to immerse Minneapolis audiences in classic Van Gogh pieces, from “Sunflowers” to “The Bedroom” and more.



Above: The scene that greeted me as I entered the office of the Palliative Care team at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, MN – Thursday, October 21. My Palliative Care colleagues celebrated my birthday on Thursday as I took Friday (the day before my actual birthday) off.


Above and below: Celebrating my birthday with my wonderful colleagues on the interdisciplinary Palliative Care team at Mercy Hospital – Thursday, October 21, 2021. I serve as the interfaith spiritual health provider (or chaplain) on the team.


Above: My best mate Deadre – Friday, October 22, 2021.



Above: A birthday eve dinner with my friends (from left) Calvin, Kathleen, and Joseph. . . . Oh, and that’s Frodo in the foreground!

We all live in a triplex in the Seward neighborhood of south Minneapolis. I live in the third floor attic apartment of this triplex.





Above and right
: A birthday lunch at Pizza Lucé with my friend Angie and her daughter Mandy – Saturday, October 23, 2021.




Above, left and below: After lunch Angie, Mandy and I walked down to the shoreline of the Mississippi River, just a short distance from my home in south Minneapolis. It was an absolutely beautiful fall day to be out and about!


Above: Deandre, Mandy, and Angie in my attic apartment on the evening of my birthday – Saturday, October 23, 2021.


__________________________


NOTES

[1] As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it’s somewhat of a tradition to mark my birthday here at The Wild Reed 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 myself, but for many of us here in Minnesota.

Seven years ago, on the first day of my fiftieth year, I shared a “guidepost on the journey,” and then one year later on the day of my 50th birthday, I shared Buffy Sainte-Marie’s rousing “It’s My Way.”

In 2017, when I turned 52, I shared a poem by John O’Donohue; while on my 53rd birthday I shared “Love Is,” a beautiful meditation on the mystery of love by my favorite male vocalist Carl Anderson (left).

The year I turned 54 I shared “This Is the Time,” a beautiful song by Senegalese singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Daby Touré, and last year when I turned 55 it was Black's “Wonderful Life” that encapsulated much of what I found myself experiencing at that time.




[2] Writes Jim Pierson in the liner notes of the 2001 complilation album, Dusty Springfield: Beautiful Soul – The ABC/Dunhill Collection:

In the summer of 1974, producer Brooks Arthur (who had engineered Dusty’s 1964 New York sessions for the Philips label) was enlisted to oversee Dusty’s infamous, aborted second ABC/Dunhill album. The set was originally to be called Elements, but was renamed Longing, perhaps in recognition of the intense emotionalism that has always been at the center of Dusty’s music. Longing was also assigned a catalogue number and given artwork, which even appeared in an October, 1974, ABC Records preview ad for various artists in Billboard.

Recording sessions for the album began in early July at Arthur’s 914 Studios, about an hour north of New York City. It was a heady period with Arthur also producing Janis Ian’s acclaimed Between the Lines album, and Bruce Springsteen recording at 914 as well, where he could be seen watching and admiring Dusty at work. Arthur decided to emphasize deeply personal material, on the grounds that these songs would best show off Dusty’s richly vulnerable timbre. Singer-songwriters were experiencing a heyday, and Arthur chose from among the very best of the genre in his attempt to give Dusty a contemporary sound. Arthur recalls, “Recording Dusty, with her grainy vocal quality and her expressionistic body language, was like viewing a magnificent black-and-white photograph.”

. . . Though the Brooks Arthur sessions yielded some of the most compelling tracks Dusty has ever recorded, the Longing album was never completed. . . . Personal difficulties prompted Dusty to take an extended break from her recording career following the Longing sessions. She ceased her nightclub and television appearances and, at her request, was contractually released from Dunhill in 1975. She would later attribute her problems to a combination of insecurity and substance abuse, the latter which she eventually conquered.


Notes Wikipedia:

When Springfield, after a time in her life often described as her “wilderness years,” returned to the music scene for the recording of the 1978 album It Begins Again with fellow Briton Roy Thomas Baker, she re-recorded two further tracks originally included in the Longing set; the Motown classic “A Love Like Yours (Don't Come Knocking Everyday)” and Chi Coltrane’s “Turn Me Around,” both with slightly updated and different arrangements.

The year 2000 saw the debut of three original recordings from the Longing sessions: Janis Ian’s “In the Winter,” Melissa Manchester and Carole Bayer Sager’s “Home to Myself” and Colin Blunstone and David Jones’ “Exclusively for Me,” all of which had been mixed and digitally remastered as early as 1995. These three titles were finally released as part of Mercury/Universal Music UK’s 4 CD boxed set Simply Dusty, a project which was commissioned with Springfield’s full approval before her death in 1999.


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Moments of Wonder
This Is the Time
With Love Inside
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

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Autumn, Adnan . . . and Art?


As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been enjoying experimenting with Prisma, a photo-editing mobile application (or app) that “uses neural networks and artificial intelligence to apply artistic effects to transform images.” I quite like some of the effects that can be created using this particular app.

Lately, the two subjects of my use of the Prisma filter, Aqua, have been the current season of autumn and my friend Adnan. They are both subjects that I find very photogenic, and so my photography of each of them is the basis of the Aqua-filtered images I share this evening.

I also share the following excerpt from Sam Levins’ 2016 Guardian article about Prisma and its ability to “turn photos into works of art.”

Prisma is reinventing the concept of filtering photos with technology. While the concept of adding filters to photos has been around for years, the Prisma iOS app is unique in the way that it relies on a “combination of neural networks and artificial intelligence” to remake the image.

What that means is the Prisma tools aren’t the kind of art filters that Instagram uses where the filters overlay the original photo. Instead, Prisma goes through different layers and recreates the photo from scratch, according to the app makers, who are based in Moscow.

“We do the image fresh,” Prisma co-founder Alexey Moiseenkov said in an interview Thursday. “It’s not similar to the Instagram filter where you just layer over. . . . We draw something like a real artist would.”

. . . Since Prisma has spread, some have complained that the app could devalue the work of real artists and take away work from painters who make art by hand – not within seconds on a smartphone. But for now, the app remains hugely popular, and Moiseenkov said he expects its user base to continue its rapid growth.

Moiseenkov’s background is computer science and he’s not an artist himself. But he said he grew up loving painting and that his favorite artist is Camille Pissarro, the Danish-French impressionist. “People want to create something, and we allow them to experiment,” he said.

– Sam Levins
Excerpted from “Prisma: The App That Turns
Photos Into Works of Art

The Guardian
July 14, 2016


I should note that at one point in his article, Levins contends that Prisma “lets users instantly transform mundane images into Picasso paintings,” the implication being that the app can transform bad photos into great works of art. I actually don’t agree with this. After all, a crappy photo is going to be a crappy “work of art.” Composition is key here, and that can’t be changed no matter how much you make your photo look like a painting.

In commenting on my photography, people often tell me I “have a good eye,” which is really what composition is all about: seeing and composing the various objects within one’s chosen frame of vision thoughtfully and meaningfully; artistically, in other words. A good painter does this just as a good photographer does. Good composition should draw us in, make us wonder, maybe even make us see things differently and think about things differently. With such composition missing from either art form, the result will always be, to use Levins’ word, “mundane”



I invite you to spend time with my images of autumn and of Adnan, and to decide for yourself if they are works of art, mundane, or something in between. And I hope that you'll not only come to a decision about that, but that you'll also know why you came to the decision that you did.



See also the previous Wild Reed posts:

AUTUMN
Autumn: Season of Transformation and Surrender
O Sacred Season of Autumn
“Thou Hast Thy Music Too”
Autumn – Within and Beyond (2018)
Autumn – Within and Beyond (2016)
Late Autumn Light
“This Autumn Land Is Dreaming”

ADNAN
Blue Yonder
November Musings
Morning Light
Adnan . . . with Sunset Reflections and Jet Trail
Adnan . . . Amidst Mississippi Reflections
The Landscape Is a Mirror
In This In-Between Time

NATURE AND SPIRITUALITY
“I Caught a Glimpse of a God . . .”
The Prayer Tree
The Prayer Tree . . . Aflame!
Cosmic Connection
The Mysticism of Trees
Holy Encounters Where Two Worlds Meet

Related Off-site Links:
A New Popular App Called Prisma Has Insanely Cool Photo Filters That Make Instagram's Feel Boring – Danielle Muoio (Business Insider, July 8, 2016).
Prisma Uses AI to Turn Your Photos Into Graphic Novel Fodder Double Quick – Natasha Lomas (TechCrunch.com, June 24, 2016).
8 Photo Editing Apps That Should Be On Your Phone in 2021GQ India (October 10, 2021).

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Marianne Williamson on the Tenth Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street


Last month (September 17 to be exact) saw the 10th anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street, a protest movement against economic inequality that began in Zuccotti Park, located in New York City's Wall Street financial district. It gave rise to the wider Occupy movement in the United States and around the world.

In marking this anniversary, Julianna Forlano of Act.TV interviewed author, activist, and former presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, who ten years ago participated in Occupy Los Angeles, part of the wider Occupy movement.

As well as sharing her insights on the significance of the Occupy movement, Marianne also talks more broadly about the spiritual and moral nature of social justice movements. It’s a 13-minute interview that’s well-worth watching.





Related Off-site Links:
Happy Birthday, Occupy Wall Street – Jonathan Smucker (The Intercept, September 17, 2021).
Occupy Wall Street Changed Everything: Ten Years Later, the Legacy of Zuccotti Park Has Never Been Clearer – Astra Taylor and Jonathan Smucker (New York Magazine, September 17, 2021).
“Another World Is Possible”: How Occupy Wall Street Reshaped Politics and Kicked Off a New Era of ProtestDemocracy Now! (September 17, 2021).
The Real Story of Occupy Wall Street Is What’s Happened Since – Nathan Schneider (Rolling Stone, September 17, 2021).
Occupy Wall Street Trained a Generation in Class War – Nathan Schneider (Rolling Stone, September 17, 2021).
Thinking About Art on the 10th Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street – Noah Fischer (Hyperallergic, September 17, 2021).

UPDATE: 10 Years After Occupy Wall Street, Its Legacy Remains Strong – Arun Gupta (Yes!, October 20, 2021).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Christopher Hedges: Quote of the Day – October 1, 2011
Rocking the Cradle of Power
Jason Easley: Quote of the Day – October 2, 2011
Something to Think About – November 30, 2011
A Song and Challenge for 2012
Threshold Musings

And from the archives of The Progressive Catholic Voice, see:
Reflections on Occupy Minneapolis – Mary Lynn Murphy (February 20, 2012).
Occupy Minneapolis: Spring Remembrances – Mary Lynn Murphy (February 29, 2012).

Opening image: Tracie Williams.


Thursday, October 14, 2021

Remembering Uta Ranke-Heinemann, 1927-2021


In putting together the most recent installment of The Wild Reed’s "In the Garden of Spirituality" series, I discovered that theologian Uta Ranke-Heinemann died earlier this year.

I first became aware of Uta when on Australian TV back in the early 1990s, I viewed the British documentary, Through the Devil’s Gateway: Women, Religion and Taboo. Uta was one of a number of female scholars and writers interviewed for this series. I was immediately impressed and inspired by her theological insights and the direct (some might say confrontational) way she shared them.

Years later I read her landmark book Eunuchs For the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality, and the Catholic Church and its follow-up, Putting Away Childish Things: The Virgin Birth, the Empty Tomb, and Other Fairy Tales You Don’t Need to Believe to Have a Living Faith. About the latter, renowned historian of religion Karen Armstrong notes that it “skillfully disentangles the web of contradictions and improbabilities that surround the Christian story to reveal the essential underlying truth.” (For excerpts from Putting Away Childish Things, click here and here.)

Armstrong’s comment highlights the fact that Uta Ranke-Heinemann’s writings were radical in the truest sense of the word; they went to the heart or root of the Christian story, and thus of human religious experience. Her writings can rightly be described as trailblazing. Not surprisingly, they were (and remain) controversial for some. Yet for others, myself included, they were liberating. As such, they definitely influenced the expansion of my thinking on gender, sexuality, and church authority. And for that I’m grateful.

There’s not much online about Uta’s passing or the important theological contributions she made in her lifetime. Accordingly, I’ve put together the following which is drawn from Wikipedia and from this article published shortly after her death.

Rest in peace and power, Uta. And thank you for your prophetic witness through your liberating writings.

________________________


She was the world’s first female professor of Catholic theology and quickly became a vocal critic of the Roman Catholic hierachy: Uta Ranke-Heinemann, the eldest daughter of former Federal Republic of Germany President Gustav Heinemann, died at her home in Essen, Germany on Thursday, March 25, 2021. She was 93.

Her son Andreas Ranke announced her death to the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur, saying his mother “fell asleep peacefully in front of relatives.”

Uta Heinemann was born on October 2, 1927 in Essen; her parents were Calvinist Protestants. Her father Gustav Heinemann was the third President of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1969 to 1974. He was the first member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) to hold the presidency.

In 1945 Heinemann was the only female to attend the Burggymnasium in Essen, where she graduated from high school. She went on to study Protestant Theology. She converted to Roman Catholicism in 1953 when she married a Catholic religion teacher, Edmund Ranke. The couple had two sons. She was promoted to doctor in 1954 in Munich, making her the first woman to be so (together with Elisabeth Gössmann). One of her fellow students and a friend at that time was Joseph Ratzinger, later known as Pope Benedict XVI, about whom she later said, “[He] always had the aura of a cardinal, and the highest intelligence, with a total absence of the erotic.”

In 1969, Ranke-Heinemann became the first woman in the world to be habilitated in Catholic theology, at the University of Munich. She subsequently held the Essen University chair of ancient Church history and the New Testament from 1970.

About her relationship with the Catholic hierachy, Ranke-Heinemann would later remark: “But I went from bad to worse with the Catholics.” She was a vocal critic of the papal ban on contraception, describimg the fact that African women were threatened with hell for using a condom to have sex with their HIV-infected husbands as a “fatal deception on humanity.”

Ranke-Heinemann was a dedicated peace activist. During the Vietnam War she supported the ban on napalm bombs and visited Communist North Vietnam.

In 1979, she organized food for Cambodia which at the time was experiencing a famine.

She taught Catholic theology from 1980 in Duisburg, and from 1985 in Essen. In 1987 Ranke-Heinemann contradicted the church dogma of the Virgin Birth, saying that the stories of Mary’s virginity should not be taken literally but rather as “models of the imagination at the time.” The then Essen bishop, Franz Hengsbach, subsequently withdrew her education license. She lost her chair in Essen, but was given a church-independent chair for religious history. In 1988 she published her principal book dealing critically with sexuality in the Catholic Church, in English Eunuchs For the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality, and the Catholic Church. Many editions followed, and it was translated into twelve languages.

In 1999, the renowned pacifist was a candidate for President of Germany, without party membership, but lost to Johannes Rau, the husband of her niece Christina.

Her book Nein und Amen (“No and Amen”), announcing her break with the church, was first published in 1992 and reprinted several times; the book was translated into English as Putting Away Childish Things: The Virgin Birth, the Empty Tomb, and Other Fairy Tales You Don’t Need to Believe to Have a Living Faith. Spanish and Polish translations followed. She revised it in 2002, after the death of her husband, with the new subtitle Mein Abschied vom traditionellen Christentum, "My farewell to traditional Christianity."

Ranke-Heinemann did not deviate from her criticism of the church in her later life. The election of her former fellow student Joseph Ratzinger as pope did not change this. “I am disappointed,” she said a year after Benedict XVI took office. “I was hoping he would finally get rid of celibacy.”

In another interview, she declared: “I don’t see any future for a church in which all shepherds are men, and all women are sheep. How could that be a universal church?”

________________________



In closing, here’s a TV news story about Uta Ranke-Heinemann’s passing. It’s from a German news show, and, as I don’t speak German, I just have to assume it does a good job of summarizing and honoring her life. If you’re reading this and know German, please feel free to translate the audio of this video and share it in the comments section of this post. Thanks!





See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In the Garden of Spirituality: Uta Ranke-Heinemann
Uta Ranke-Heinemann on the Future of the Catholic Church
Uta Ranke-Heinemann on the Burial of Jesus: “No Splendor and Glory”