We are to be…

When there is an attack on a synagogue, it is an attack on my church. When there is an attack on a Muslim, it is an attack on me.

The Command I follow calls me, demands that I, consider others before myself, treat others as I want to be treated, no matter how the other may view or treat me. If someone wants to think him/herself a “Christian,” this is how s/he is to be (even if imperfectly) not because I say so, but because the One we follow demands it. How different the world would be if only we abide this call.

We are to be…

When there is an attack on a synagogue, it is an attack on my church. When there is an attack on a Muslim, it is an attack on me.

The Command I follow calls me, demands that I, consider others before myself, treat others as I want to be treated, no matter how the other may view or treat me. If someone wants to think him/herself a “Christian,” this is how s/he is to be (even if imperfectly) not because I say so, but because the One we follow demands it. How different the world would be if only we abide this call.

I hope to live up to…

Moving enables me to look through long kept stuff. When I left employment at Kent State University, among the good folks of Undergraduate Studies (who I still miss, today) for seminary in NYC, they sent me off with a lovely bound folio of written remembrances and well-wishes. My dear friend, Amy Quillan (now Dr. Quillan, PhD.), with whom I shared a great deal during our graduate studies and life at Kent afterward, wrote a long bit to me. One paragraph probably hits closest to my hopeful self-perception (or self-delusion, depending on who one talks to), and here it is (a bit of self-indulgence, if I may):


“You are a man of vision and passion, a lover of life, and a tenacious pursuer of the greater good. And you unabashedly call others to that great good, too, challenging and encouraging them to think, reflect, and ponder, and maybe change for the sake of a higher calling. You’ve done that for me, and I am forever grateful.”


I guess if one is to have a legacy, what Amy wrote about me, then, would be a pretty darn good one to have. I can only hope that I have lived up to her perception of me over the passing years, and now live even more fully into such a way of being. With a bit of self-reflection, I have to admit that I’ve missed the mark, but my hope is that I will be such a man for the rest of today and tomorrow and the remainder of my life.

Steampunk Priest and the Helpers

I’ve been thinking about Halloween and comments some make about how easy it could be for me to just dress up as a priest. Well, it could, but that seems too irreverent, so I never will. However, I was thinking about how dressing up as a Steampunk Priest might be fun. So, I googled it, like any good, red-blooded, American male, to see what others have done, if anything. There is a bit of stuff and some good ideas. However…

I came across a blog: Steampunk Vicar. His latest post had a quote from Rev. Rogers (that’s “Mr. Rogers” to you and me, of Neighborhood fame, who was, in fact, an ordained Presbyterian minister). This little quote may be one of those things that just shifts my whole perspective (kind of like what Steampunk does). Here it is:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” (Fred Rogers)

Mr./Rev. Rogers’ mother was a profoundly wise woman, and I am sure much of Mr. Rogers’ sensibility came from her.

Look for those who are helping! Instead of absorbing the blathering of crazed pundits or protesting ditties, look for those who are helping. It is easy to talk and can be fun to march, but to roll up one’s sleeves and be in the midst of those who smack-you-upside-the-head need help – on the ground, in the field, beside the one prone in the gutter – will be a much better and in the end more satisfying-for-the-soul thing to do. In the midst of the worst of everything, look for the helpers! I want to be with the helpers.

Nothing, yet all

“To reach satisfaction in all
desire its possession in nothing
To come to the knowledge of all
desire the knowledge of nothing
To come to possess all
desire the possession off nothing
To arrive at being all
desire to be nothing

To come to the pleasure you have not
you must go by a way in which you enjoy not
To come to the knowledge you have not
you must go by a way in which you know not
To come to the possession you have not
you must go by a way in which you possess not
To come to be what you are not
you must go by a way in which you are not

When you turn toward something
you cease to cast yourself upon all
for to go from the all to the all
you must leave yourself in all
And when you come to the possession of all
you must possess it without wanting anything

In this nakedness the spirit
finds its rest, for when it
covets nothing, nothing
raises it up, and nothing
weights it down, because it is
in the center of its humanity.”

St. John of the Cross

Realities

For a good number of years, every spring I would go to Boarders or Barnes & Nobles and buy books for summer reading – always one book only because of its cover. When I started reading books on my iPad in earnest, I fell out of my spring habit. Yesterday, I walked by a B. & N. and a book displayed caught my attention, so I bought it and a few other tactile summer books.

This particularly book, “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” was written by a J.D. Vance whose “people” (extended family) originally was and is from the coal country of Eastern Kentucky – Jackson, KY. He is a graduate of the Yale Law School, now lives in California, and still refers to himself at heart as a “hillbilly.”

In his writing, I see where my “people” are from in both the incredible goodness and beauty of the place and also the horrific conditions people live under and through.

He uses his experience and observation to comment on the profound crisis among economically poor people throughout the country.

My own experience and observations lead me to this question – Why do we continue to tell ourselves (those of means and bleeding hearts) that a place and a people can exist on government assistance/handouts and still retain their dignity, a hopeful future, and cohesion as a beneficial community? Helping people in need isn’t the issue, but how that help is understood and delivered continues to be an issue. We have to approach all of this in a different way, because the way we are going isn’t working. (Until certain segments of the population understand this, they will never, ever understand how someone like Trump is elected President.)

Netflix OA

I just finished watching the first season of Netflix’s series OA. Great story telling. The best aspect of the story is the group of “misfits” – young and old – that provide the main medium of the story telling. Of course, it brought up all the old high school “misfit” / “geek” feelings that have gone on within me all my life.

It’s true that for whatever reason I’ve always been slightly off kilter from most other people. Every now and then, I find another kindred spirit, but rarely.

Watch it, if you can.

Down a different road…

‘But how can it be I am guilty before anyone?’ each of them would say, laughing in my face [even good naturedly]. ‘Well, how can I be guilty before you, for example?’ ‘Oh,’ I replied to them, ‘how can you hope to understand that,  when the whole world has long been progressing along another road, and when downright falsehood is considered by us as truth, and when we expect and demand similar falsehood from others.’ 

– The Elder Zosima (The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky)

We have the right, perhaps, but we have to be very, very careful

One thing to consider: A democracy is a messy proposition, and at times more messy than other times. The Founding Fathers, in their wisdom, did not create a direct-democracy but a republican form of democratic state. This helps mitigate some of the craziness. An assembly of sane, rational, even if at times passionate, representatives of the People are to make decisions for the good of the People.
 
We need to remember that the Constitution, that profoundly liberal and radical document of its time, was preceded by the Declaration of Independence. When a government no longer responds to the wishes or needs of the citizenry, men and women have the right and obligation to take affairs into their own hands.
 
Can we understand that the rise in popularity of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders may be further explained as the result of a citizenry absolutely at their wits end with the Washington status quo? Nothing the People do – who they elect – seems to change the perceived fact that “representatives of the people” consider less and less the wishes and needs of the People.
 
The People believe the Government as it is, is broken. What then shall they do – shall we do? Would we rather have plutocracy? meritocracy? oligarchy? authoritarianism?
 
While these times are not the same kind of times as where the mid-to-late 1700’s, the People in these times may be ready to throw off caution in order to bring the Government back down to earth. We need to be vary careful… very careful!
 
From the Declaration of Independence:
 
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”

The times and politics…

The Republican Party apparatus has to realize that this trash-Trump tactic is simply not going to work. The reasons people are showing support for Trump have little to do with whether they think he is virtuous or not – most know he is not. They express their support for Trump out of protest – they are sick and tired of “politics as usual,” whether from conservatives or liberals.
Nothing else has stopped “politics as usual” so far, so why not try Trump.

Someone said to me, recently, that we have Trump as the natural progression of decades of forced political correctness – this phenomenon is the natural result of it. If the “political correctness” juggernaut results in simply shutting-up people who attempt to express opinions that are not currently in vogue (liberal vogue or conservative vogue) without actually changing hearts and minds, this is the kind of end result. Out of pure frustration and insult, people will support someone who forcibly does the opposite of the demands of the current arbiters of political correctness (or accepted respectability).

I don’t believe that the majority of people who express support for Trump are unthinking, bigoted, misogynist, etc., idiots as Trump opponents like to assert. (Some are, but, some liberals are, too.) And, of course, the popular media feeds the controversy.

This is protest, and we are foolish if we don’t heed the tea leaves. The more the Party apparatus or others try to bring Trump down the presumed “usual way,” the more they are going to fail. Keep piling it on – it just makes the protest more fun for those protesting.