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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Life is a Poem

"We’re taught that poetry is some kind of elevated language about an elevated life we don’t live. It’s ordinary language about an ordinary life that we live." ~ Dionne Brand

April is National Poetry Month. I discovered this from my car radio last night as I drove home form a church meeting.

As is the case for many of us who spend time in and out of automobiles, I caught a snippet of a radio program. The program is "q" with Tom Power from the CBC and it airs on our local NPR station when I'm driving home from evening church meetings. I've never listened to an entire program, only snippets, but I usually like what I hear.

The bit I heard included the above quote from Dionne Brand an acclaimed Canadian poet. Brand, in the interview, goes on to describe poetry as where "...the music and matter of language come together..."  Her ordinary poetic definition of poetry sent my thoughts to an OEP blog I wrote last year about poetry. It also inspired me to ponder the extraordinary reality of the ordinary in our world.

The convergence of music (spirit) and matter (body) is how I have come to think of, believe in, and experience religion and spirituality. We are spiritual bodies. This is an ultimate teaching and tension in every religious tradition. Our problems seem to come when we think of spirituality as "elevated" beyond our grasp, when in reality it is forever within our reach in the ordinary. Even our rituals, sacraments, and holy days point us in the direction of talking, listening, eating, bathing, giving, receiving, living, and dying.  It's all so ordinary yet so poetic.

We are God's poetry, created in One Eternal Presence to be artisans and poets of good as we live in God's eternal poem.  Ephesians 2:10 (my translation)

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Where is Your Jerusalem?

It's Wednesday of Holy Week. According to the biblical Gospel stories, this is the week Jesus finally went to Jerusalem, the place where he knew he would be killed. During the days (at night he went to safe places outside the city) he taught in the temple, mostly about the corruption of the religious leaders in Jerusalem, and their capitulation to imperial powers. By Friday afternoon he was dead.

I know it sounds cliche (probably because it is always true) but we live in such times. Imperial powers, which include untethered corporate greed, threaten not only human dignity, but also human existence. And religions in which many of us participate prop up these forces with theological acrobatics, but mostly through apathy.

What would happen if all the people who claim to follow Jesus actually did? What would happen if people of all faiths began to live by the basic values of these faiths - love, compassion, generosity, justice, grace, hope...? What would happen if each person of faith was to identify a threatening place in their life, a "Jerusalem," and enter proclaiming and living true values of human dignity? 

Would we be killed? Maybe. But like a man on the news last night who escaped starvation in Northern Africa by crossing the Mediterranean in a small boat when asked, "Why risk your life crossing the water?" said, "What did I have to loose. I was already dead."

There is life and there is the illusion of life. In which are we living?


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Space and Time

Thirty-five thousand years ago a human migration began in East Asia and for thousands of years made their way across frozen oceans to what we now call Alaska, eventually spreading east and south into North, Central, and South Americas. My daughter and son-in-law recently flew from Beijing, China to Newark, NJ in less than thirteen hours.

It took only five hundred years or so for European conquests to decimate most of those ancient people. Today a "tweet" can span the globe in seconds and affect millions of lives.

We have always been One Planet, One Creation, and One Human family. Space and time are just getting smaller and faster.

One Eternal Presence still holds it all together.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019


In our neighborhood brewery recently, the room was filled with sound: conversations, laughter, and not too loud jukebox music.

The guy beside me at the bar and I talked sports until he left. On my other side was a couple engaged in their own conversation so I took a minute to sip my beer and take in the room. But I couldn't help hearing snippets, then more, of the couple next to me. I looked straight ahead pretending not to listen. They were engaged in a fairly common conversation between couples about how he/she "never listens."

He got into a long explanation of how when he first comes home from work he has so much on his mind and that was why he often didn't hear what she was saying to him. In the middle of this rather rambling rationalization he stopped mid-sentence and said, "I've always loved this song."

Of course, my own attention at the time was on the couple's conversation. I had never even heard the music, nor did I recognize it when drawn to it.  He loved it. I had never heard it. And the expression on her face screamed, "See what I mean!" 

Attention. What are we hearing, seeing, feeling? Where is our attention? Is it focused? Scattered? Bouncing all over the place?

Remember the scene from The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and her friends finally come into the presence of The Great Oz?  The "great" oz turns out to be a "little man" who is good at creating illusions. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" He shouts.

Meditation can be described as the practice of paying attention to our attention. Taking a few minutes each day to sit quietly and let the myriad attentions of our lives settle into silence is perhaps the only way we can begin to cope with the too often chaotic cacophony of attention grabbing noise around us.

The "man behind the curtain" is all around us, but most if all he is us.