Sunday, October 31, 2021

Remembering the Beloved Dead


Earlier today my friend Tim and I attended a procession and festival in south Minneapolis entitled El Grito de los Ancestros/The Cry of the Ancestors.

Presented by BareBones and Festival de las Calaveras (a Mexican Day of the Dead celebration), today’s event was dedicated to “honoring our ancestors, remembering the beloved dead, and fostering community unity.”


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Hallowtide Reflections
Samhain: A Time of Magick and Mystery
At Hallowtide, Pagan Thoughts on Restoring Our World and Our Souls
Resilience and Hope
An All Hallows Eve Reflection
Halloween Thoughts
A Hallowtide Reflection
The Pagan Roots of All Saints Day
“Call Upon Those You Love”
Our Sacred Journey Continues: An All Saints and Souls Day Reflection
An All Souls Day Reflection
Advent: A “ChristoPagan” Perspective
Magician Among the Spirits
Holy Encounters Where Two Worlds Meet

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Quote of the Day


Late last night, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) offered what she termed “an honest accounting” of the “ever-evolving negotiations” to do with the Democratic effort in Congress to pass the once sweeping, but now hobbling “Build Back Better” bill that has been ransacked by a small handful of corporate-backed members of the party.


Related Off-site Links:
“All You Have to Do Is Follow the Money”: Ilhan Omar Rebukes Corporate Democrats – Jon Queally (Common Dreams, October 28, 2021).
“Hold the Line”: Progressives Push to Block Vote on Weaker Bill Without Final Text of Build Back BetterCommon Dreams (October 28, 2021).
With Reconciliation Hacked in Half, Sanders Warns U.S. Democracy Is “in Danger” – Sharon Zhang (TruthOut, October 28, 2021).
Progressive Dems Balk at “Trust Manchin” After Frantic Push by Biden and Pelosi – William Rivers Pitt (TruthOut, October 28, 2021).
“Pelosi Absolutely Destroyed” Tax on Billionaires, Says Democratic Insider – Kenny Stancil (Common Times, October 28, 2021).
We’re About to Pass Up a Generational Opportunity to Stem the Climate Crisis – Basav Sen (In These Times, October 27, 2021).

UPDATES: Building Back Kinda Sorta Better – Marianne Williamson (Transform, October 29, 2021).
The Centerpiece of the Build Back Better Climate Plan Has Been Stripped Out – Sasha Abramsky (TruthOut, October 28, 2021).
Keeping Fighting Like Hell: Nina Turner on What Bernie Sanders and Progressives Should Do Next – Jon Queally (Common Dreams, October 30, 2021).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Colin Taylor on the “Moral Obscenity” of Obstructionist Democrats Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema
Hamilton Nolan: Quote of the Day – August 3, 2021
Norman Solomon: Quote of the Day – July 8, 2021
Ilhan Omar: Quote of the Day – May 29, 2021
Something to Think About – March 9, 2021
David Sirota: Quote of the Day – January 26, 2021
Sen. Tina Smith: The Filibuster Rule Is “Fundamentally Undemocratic”
Ilhan Omar: Quote of the Day – August 11, 2020
Ilhan Omar: Quote of the Day – April 13, 2019
Ilhan Omar: Stepping Into Her Power
Progressive Perspectives on the Ilhan Omar “Controversy”
Ilhan Omar on The Daily Show

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

You Are My Goal, Beloved One


The following is an adaptation of Lesson 287 of A Course in Miracles – Volume II: Workbook for Students.

The original text uses the metaphor of father for the Divine Presence. I use the metaphor of lover as expressed in the phrase “Beloved One.” As with the previous adaptations I’ve shared (see here and here), if this one resonates with you, feel free to make it even more meaningful by using your preferred images and words: “God,” “Allah,” “Lord,” “Jesus,” “Holy One,” “Mother.” I trust that they all serve as different pathways leading up the same holy mountain or, to use another metaphor, different gateways leading inwards to our center, the deepest part of which we all share. For as Henri Nouwen so beautifully reminds us: “In the depths of my being, I meet my fellow humans with whom I share [all things].”


Where would I go but into Your presence, my Beloved One? What could be a substitute for the peace You bring? What gift could I prefer before the peace of the Beloved One? What treasure would I seek and find and keep that can compare with my true Identity? And would I rather live with fear than love?

You are my goal, my Beloved One. What but You could I desire to have? What way but that which leads to You could I desire to walk? And what except the memory of You could signify to me the end of illusions and futile substitutions for the truth of Your Love? You are my only goal. I would be as You created me. What way but this could I expect to recognize my Self and be at one with the holy core of my true Identity.

Yes, You are my goal, Beloved One. Only You.


_____________________


I appreciate Marianne Williamson’s thoughts on Lesson 287, which she recently shared as part of her daily “Mornings with Marianne.”

There is a part in the Course in Miracles where it says that the most passionate love you have ever felt on this earth is but a fraction of the passion you feel for God. [This is because] there is a longing, a yearning for that from whence we came, and that from whence we came is our identity. Why? Because an idea does not leave its source and each one of us is an idea in the mind of God.

The first half of the Workbook is all about dismantling the thought system based on fear, while the second half is training us to substitute it with a different thought system, one based on love. In doing so, we are constantly affirming the holy perception, the true perception. And there is nothing more truer or more holy than our oneness with God.

The Course in Miracles says we achieve so little because our minds are undisciplined. We have goals that are all over the place, including the goal of holding onto our pain. But our pain is the ego’s peak experience. [We must strive instead] for singleness of intention – “You are my goal, my [Beloved One]. Only You.”

Say to yourself: My goal is to remember God. And in doing that I remember myself. Therein lies my peace. And from this simple place you dwell within the complexity of the world, but with much greater power and far more peace.



See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Meeting (and Embodying) the Lover God
The Soul’s Beloved
Aligning With the Living Light
Be In My Mind, Beloved One
Your Peace Is With Me, Beloved One
Be Just In My Heart
Beloved and Antlered
“Here I Am”
Sometimes I Wonder . . .
Vessels of the Holy
No Altar More Sacred
To Be Held and to Hold
An Erotic Encounter with the Divine
Spirituality and the Gay Experience
The Holy Pleasure of Intimacy
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace

Artwork:Soulmates – Essence of Love” by Salem Beiruti.


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 are 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 recording by Dusty that I share today on my 56th birthday is “Home to Myself,” a track recorded in 1974 for her 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 that 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



Some more thoughts . . . 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 and left:
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 hosted a birthday celebration for me 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.


Right: Deandre's gift to me for my birthday was a great oil painting-like portrait of Ross Poldark, that “renegade of principle” as depicted by Adian Turner in the most recent BBC adaptation of Winston Graham’s celebrated Poldark series of historical novels. I recently introduced Deandre to Poldark, the TV series, and we’ve been watching it (on DVD) over the past few weeks. We’re currently mid-way through season 4.

As regular readers of this blog would know, I’ve long been an admirer of Graham's series of twelve novels upon which Poldark is based . . . and have been since I first read them as a teenager in the late 1970s. For those unfamiliar with Poldark, I suggest the previous Wild Reed posts that can be found here, here, here, here, and here.


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.




Right: Lunch with my dear friend Joan – Wednesday, October 27, 2021. Yes, even after my actual birthday, the celebrations continue!

Also, you may recall how in 2015 Joan accompanied me on a visit back to my homeland of Australia.



Above: Joan and I lunched at the Good Earth restaurant at Galleria in Edina. Afterwards, we looked through the stores in this upscale shopping mall. It was in Arvaus, that I ask Joan to take this picture of me by these large and ornate doors!



Above: Breakfast with my friends Pete and Julia, both of whom I first met when working for TRUST Meals-on-Wheels (2011-2017). We shared a meal at The Standish in south Minneapolis on Thursday, October 28, 2021.



Above and left: I consider my last 56th birthday celebration as being my getting together with my friend Tim for El Grito de los Ancestros/The Cry of the Ancestors Procession and Festival on Sunday, October 31, 2021.

Presented by BareBones and Festival de las Calaveras (a Mexican Day of the Dead celebration), Sunday’s event was dedicated to “honoring our ancestors, remembering the beloved dead, and fostering community unity.” Afterwards, Tim and I enjoyed a meal at Reverie Cafe + Bar.



__________________________


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.

Two recent 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 or corrected, 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, make us see things differently and maybe even think about things differently. With such composition missing from any kind of visual art, 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
“Everything Is Saturated With the Sacred”
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
Adnan in Morning Light
Adnan . . . with Sunset Reflections and Jet Trail
Adnan . . . Amidst Mississippi Reflections
Skylight
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.