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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Where are the poets?

Every American needs to see the movie "Hidden Figures."  It addresses so many things that are good and bad about our country while inspiring toward the good. Without going further by reviewing it, I simply encourage you to see it if possible. 

Among the rich texture of the entire movie there is one scene, actually a cameo, of President John Kennedy that I can't get out of my thoughts.  It is a clip of President Kennedy inspiring the national imagination toward the moon. I'm not sure if this is the one in the movie, but here is a link to a portion of one of his "moon speeches." Please watch and/or listen!

What strikes me and holds me is not so much the topic of space exploration, even though that in itself if inspiring, but rather the spirit and language of the speech. The spirit encompasses a knowledge of history that moves us forward. The language is eloquent, not in a flashy or manipulative sense but eloquent in that the words seem to be precisely chosen and arranged to inspire, in short - poetic.

There is a phrase in Paul's Letter to the Ephesians (2:10) that says "We are God's creation" or "we are what God has made us."  The Greek says "We are God's poiema," or poetry

We are God's poetry. We are expressions of God’s creative Spirit giving us dual status as created and as creators. We are both art and artist, poem and poet. Whenever or whatever we humans create comes from the innate, incarnate Spirit of God at the core of our being.

Where are the poet leaders today inspiring us toward our own poetry and goodness?


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Humor


"A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people…We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
~ Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address

Recently I heard someone say, "What is lacking in our political discourse today is a sense of humor." Quickly agreeing, I also begin to ponder, "Yes, but there's not much to laugh about. What's funny about the way many people in the world are embracing and even celebrating the shadows of human nature rather than seeking the light of our better angels.

Humor, however, is not necessarily funny, even though this is the way many of us use the word today. Originally, humor was a term of medieval physiology pertaining to bodily fluids and how they determined the disposition, temperament, or we might say personality, of a person. As such, it became a term to describe temperament and disposition, whether a person was gloomy or cheerful, optimistic or pessimistic, happy or sad. A person's humor could be good or bad. Eventually, and perhaps because disposition and temperament often fluctuate unpredictably in people, the term became associated with a sense of absurdity or incongruity. Then, perhaps because absurd incongruity often makes us laugh, or at least smile, humor became funny,

Like so many words, humor is a verb as well as a noun.  The verb means to indulge or placate a situation or behavior that you really would prefer to not happen.  To humor someone or something is to tolerate, or agree while disagreeing.  We humor people and situations all of the time through silence, false praise, and even dishonest agreement.

So, back to the original statement, "What is lacking in our political discourse today is a sense of humor."  Yes, and No.

First, No! Actually there is probably too much indulging, placating, tolerating, silence, false praise, and dishonest agreement going on around and in us today.  We let slide harmful comments and actions that incite and encourage our darker dispositions and temperaments. We humor people simply because of their social or economic positions, or political office.  We put up with a lot of nonsense and destructive behavior in others and in ourselves.

Second, Yes! We desperately need to regain our sense of absurdity and incongruity in life and nurture the ability to laugh - not at each other, but rather with each other and at ourselves. We appear to have lost our human ability to sense and express how silly and inconsequential is so much of how we spend our lives. This "sense of humor" keeps us grounded, literally by reminding us that in the end we are dirt, water, and air spending a few rotations and orbits on a chunk of dirt, water, and air hurling through endless space and time.

In the end, we need to take life seriously by not indulging and ignoring our human capacity for fear, hatred, and violence.  We also need to lighten up. Smile, laugh, and share the simple joy (and absurdity) of life. By doing so we sow seeds of kindness, care, and compassion - our better angels!



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Circumspection

Circumspect -  careful to consider all circumstances and possible consequences
~ Merriam-Webster


Our English word "circumspect" comes from the Latin prefix "circum" which means surrounding, on all sides, all around; and the verb "spec" meaning to see. 

I remember years ago in my theater days when directing a play I would direct and watch rehearsals from different places throughout the house in order to get a sense of how the play looked and sounded from all possible perspectives. I would do the same with set and lighting design looking at sight lines, shadows, and hot spots. Sometimes I would go back stage and sit in a dark corner and watch the rhythm and pace of actors and stage crew as they went about their tasks, all unseen by the audience but vital to ultimate presentation. Even though I don't recall using the exact word "circumspection," that's exactly what I was doing.

In our fast paced world of Twitter, Snapchat, news briefs, and thirty second attention spans, we seemed to have lost the practice and art of circumspection. Instead of circling a problem, issue, or opportunity to consider various approaches and responses, it seems the current way is to hit things straight on, or "say it like it is." However, "straight on" eliminates at least 359 degrees of perspective, and "saying it like it is" usually comes down to one or a few people's opinions based on their perspective.

Of critical concern is that circumspection in how we care for our planet seems to be missing among many. For less than a hundred years we have had the ability and opportunity to orbit and see Earth from a distance. Seeing our cosmic home from all around and all sides tells us one startling thing: this is it!  As I recently read, "there is no planet B."

Modern technology provides information and knowledge from myriad perspectives, yet we choose to reduce the intricacy and complexity of life to tweets and chatter, often damaging relationships. On a larger scale, we carelessly destroy our only home. We live in a crucial human and planetary time when circumspection is needed more than ever.









Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year End Musings

~ from Appolo 13:

NASA Director: This could be the worst disaster NASA's ever experienced.
Flight Director, Gene Kranz: With all due respect, sir, I believe this is gonna be our finest hour.

I recently ran across one of my favorite movies on television and as usual hung around to watch the entire thing (commercials and all). The exchange quoted above captures for me the year that looms on the horizon for people who believe in and cling to Divine Presence, Human Dignity, Justice, Mercy, and Love.

In these closing days of 2016 the air is filled with retrospection. I try to remember what my thoughts, hopes, and dreams were this time last year and reflect on how they fared. As with every year there were successes and failures, pride and disappointment, gains and losses, births and deaths, victories and defeats. As with every year, each day was the same yet unique, bringing its own opportunity, potential, challenge, and satisfaction. As with every year, there were “what ifs” and “if onlys.”  As with every year, I spend its waning days bidding farewell while turning toward the threshold of another year, a New Year. And, as with every New Year, what lies in wait are days of opportunity, potential, and challenge.

My prayer for the days ahead is John O’Donohue’s poem In Praise of Fire:

Let us praise the grace & risk of Fire.

In the beginning
The Word was red,
And the sound was thunder,
And the wound in the unseen
Spilled forth the red weather of being.

In the name of Fire,
The Flame,
And the Light:
Praise the pure presence of fire
That burns from within
Without thought of time.

The hunger of Fire has no need
For the reliquary of the future;
It adores the eros of now,
Where the memory of the earth
In flames that lick and drink the air
Is made to release

Its long enduring forms
In a powder of ashes
Left for the wind to decipher.

As air intensifies the hunger of fire,
May the thought of death
Breathe new urgency
Into our love of life.

As fire cleanses dross
May the flame of passion
Burn away what is false.

As short as the time
From spark to flame,
So brief may the distance be
Between heart and being.

May we discover
Beneath our fear
Embers of anger
To kindle justice.

May courage
Cause our lives to flame,
In the name of the Fire,
And the Flame
And the Light. 

Within every perceived "worst disaster" lies the potential for a "finest hour." I'm reminded of the chorus of a hymn I wrote a few years ago:


May the fire of faith burn bright,
May the flame of hope burn long,
Turn our shadows into light. 

And fill our hearts with grateful song.