Monday, January 16, 2017

Some Long-lost poems

I was rummaging through some old incomplete music and lyric notes when I ran across  some texts that I had done years ago. On reading them, they still resonated with me, so I thought I'd add them to my blog files. The first one is very appropriate, given the occasion:
The melody tugged at the hem of my awareness
while the words hid in the folds of my feelings.
Around them swirled the maze of dailiness.
Soon, lacking attention,
they crept away into the comfort of oblivion --
maybe to remain secluded;
maybe to try again another day.
Another had no date noted, only some preliminary guitar chords.
                          The Search
Highway, long 'n' windin' highway.
Don't know where it's going, but I'm trav'lin.

River, deep 'n' muddy river.
Can't see what I want to, but I'm lookin'.

Questions ev'ry day keep fillin' up my mind.
There's myst'ry in ev'ry part of my life.
Ev'rywhere I turn, answers appear
Only leadin' to other questions.

Still another needs an image I had drawn of a twig with two arms reaching out like a U from a single stem

Twig of two minds, reaching right and left,        
         teach my heart to be so.
Teach me to embrace your between-ness;
         the wisdom of order,
                the truth of freedom,
              the wholeness of God!

The last one I want to list today is also from 4/30/88. That was a fruitful day of reflection with the Franciscan poet, Murray Bodo.

                       A Pondside Trilogy
I     I sit -- dwelling for the moment in passivity,
                     letting the world go its way,
                         waiting for that which is.

II    Green reeds rise from quiet waters;
          misplaced grass glimmers from wet sun;
             bold cattails raise their heads above the pool,
                 and gentle winds steal brown tufts to bear to unknown shores.
      Cheerful sparrows chirp while an emerald beetle scurries to its nest.

III   Why do I sit -- doing nothing?
       What do I wait for, my world -- anything?

       I know -- it is the Voice;  it is the Creator;
           it is the One whose touch is always there, always here;
               always within, always around.
      It is the One who says "Here I am; come and see!"

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lenten Practices: some thoughts

Well, Lent has begun, and my main resolution is to pay more attention to my interior life - more reading/reflection/quiet time etc. Yesterday we had a speaker who spoke about Lent. For this entry I'm going to pull out some significant ideas that came up for me during the day.

One of the first things he said was that "Lent is...  a time to re-orient our lives." This concept of re-orientation made a lot of sense for me. The image that came was that of trying to focus a camera. I can live my days pretty much on target, but now and then I need to adjust the fine focus to make sure I'm living my priorities. I can get caught giving more time and energy to things that, while practical, take up the space of other more important things.  I need to orient on long term goals now and then, not always on the immediate stuff. As he said, we (I) need to learn what is important and what isn't, considering both long term and short term.

Another thing he said that hit home was that change/metanoia is all we have; nothing is without change. To me this is helpful for Lent, because Lent is about changing our lives/attitudes/mindset/etc.. If the only stable given in our lives is change, then each of us is immersed in the natural impetus to change. If so, why is it so easy and natural for us, including me, to want not to change. The challenge: how do I use this natural, ongoing energy of change in the universe to help me change myself? Is there a way to tap into that?

Some other ideas he brought up that really caught my attention:
* Contemplatives live in the world so as to transform it.
* Teihard (de Chardin) said that we are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
* We are not counter-cultural, but members of a culture of encounter. We belong to each other.
* He quoted Walter Burkhart, saying: "There is nothing secular in life except sin."
* He cited St. Augustine as saying: "We are a body of broken bones, but on the way to healing."

I'll try to reflect on some of these thoughts down the line.

A ky monk

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Back again!

I have a hard time believing it has been so long since I entered anything here. I know I have "fallow" periods, but 9 mos. -- that's enough time to bring SOMEthing to birth!!!

Lately I've been realizing how little energy I've put forth in past months to create something. Seems I've had the ability to stop external activity and do the internal kind. I wonder why that is. It seems all energy is not equal.

Why is it easier to do something external than something internal? Is it because it's easier to do something we see than something we don't? (Reminds me of John when he says something like: If you don't love the neighbor you see, how can you love the God you don't see?)  I'm going to have to think about this a bit.

Well, at least I've come back from the void of not writing anything. Lets see if this marks another beginning where I come and do some "thinking out loud" a little more often.

a Ky monk

Thursday, April 25, 2013

About being in need

Continuation of reflections on day with Simone Campbell (See post of Sun., Apr. 14)

One of the things Simone did was cast a new light on the vow of poverty. For her, the vow calls those who profess it to a "radical awareness of our need." It puts the focus not on property and possessions but on an attitude of spirit, one of dependency and mutual responsibility. She didn't say so, but it occurs to me one could translate this as a call to community.

This state of mind is a drastic departure from how most of us in our society are trained. Taking cues from the iconic world of America's early west, most forces during our developmental stages push us to independence. We are consistently told, in one form or another, to "stand on our own two feet." As adults we tend to look at government or church programs for the disadvantaged not as "hands up," but as "hand outs."  Still another facet of this is that collaboration and compromise, basic in any kind of community, are often interpreted as signs of weakness, of not taking a tough stand.

People of faith, and most certainly a Christian faith, are called to a contrasting perspective. Jesus mandated love as the binding force in our lives -- love of self, yes, but love of others in equal measure. This kind of love is not a one-way street; it forms a map of connections and interconnections all grounded in one source, God's love for all of us. And it's a give and take, not give or take!

In genuine community, whether family, business, church, or government, my receiving from others is just as important as my giving to others. I have to know that I am not the holder of all truth and wisdom. I have to realize that my own gifts and talents do not contain everything that the community needs at any given moment. Many times my greatest contribution to building a relationship could be to allow another person to be the giver, the source of light, the healer. I have to recognize that, as Simone said, "I am not enough."

I remember when Hilary Clinton wrote her book entitled "It Takes a Village," many people scoffed at the concept. I hope by now more people see it as a deeply spiritual and practical truth.

a ky monk

Thursday, April 18, 2013

This is the first set of reflections on Simone Campbell's workshop. (See previous post.)

One of the things that for me became a thread running through the entire workshop was that of other-ness / we-ness. Often we unconciously treat individuals or groups as other, or something apart from us. We may be doing this when we use phrases like  "They said..." or "It's not my job".

When I find this thinking in myself, I'm often trying to simplify my life, to make it more manageable. I have a zillion things that call for my attention; if I can cut some out, that's a relief. The challenge, however, is the basis I use for making cuts. If, for example, I choose the job I like or to work with a person I like rather than a job I dislike or one done with a person difficult to work with, I may be choosing more on the basis of self-preservation than need.

Using self-preservation as the basis of choices is very natural, very human, and at times, quite necessary. What I find, however, is that because it is so easy, the resulting choice is often not the one that would be best for healing or building relationships in family or society. When I look at a job or another person, for example, as part of "we" or "our", not part of "them," the decision takes on a new perspective. It's part of me that needs help, not something apart from me.

In her workshop, Simone asked this question: "Who is it hard for me to let have a claim on my life?" In my mind, this almost immediately translated into a related question: "Who do I think has no claim on my life?"

Both these questions are hard to confront and need considerable pondering!

a ky monk

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Radical food for our journey?

Yesterday I had the marvelous experience of 5-6 hours in presence of Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS. A Sister of Social Service, Simone is Executive Director of Network. This organization works to get  religious values like justice and care for the poor integrated into political law and discourse. As part of this mission, Simone ministers as a creative & reflective spiritual leader, organizer, writer, speaker and poet with a background as an attorney and social worker. While this day-long workshop was directed to women religious, her challenges are certainly not limited to such a narrow group. In fact, I think they can be taken up by persons of almost any belief system. Her thoughts, phrases, poetry --- so many things --- certainly gave the 160+ attendees much food for reflection, but I can see much of it being taken up by seekers in all walks of life.

What I'd like to do here is write down some of her thoughts then, over time, periodically choose some to write about. This first post, then, will list material I think I'll want to reflect on in upcoming entries in this blog. (We'll see if I can maintain this pattern. It could be that over time I'll modify the plan, but it's a beginning.)

Simone structured her presentation around the vows of chastity, poverty, & obedience, so her thoughts here will be laid out in a similar way. Reader, don't let the notion of "vows" turn you away from considering her challenges. Anyone who feels the desire to grow as a person and to help mend a broken society will, I think, find her ideas worth pondering. In the section below I'm listing notes from her presentation on Saturday. These are not my personal reflections; my own thoughts will emerge in future posts. 

Chastity -
- re-defined as "radical availability," "radical acceptance," "radical responsibility to participate and invite others in".
- related Catholic social principles: a) dignity of human labor; b) we exist in community, in relationship; c) participation in decision-making.

Poverty -
- re-defined as "radical awareness of our need"; admitting I am not sufficient; I need help
- letting other people need me
- related Catholic social principles: a) dignity of work (work as gift); b) being witness to resources for all; c) ecological responsibility (know we don't know enough & that earth needs us)

Obedience -
- re-defined as "radical willingness"
- walk towards need; walk in solidarity and let our hearts be broken so something new can emerge
- quote from Gerald May: "The only thing we bring to the contemplative life is a willing heart."
- overcome tendency to excessive risk management
- need to trust that the Spirit is there ahead of us; do not fear & don't hold on.
- related Catholic social principles: a) solidarity of human family (hold another's concern as dear as my own); b) principle of common good; c) standing with the poor

Other thoughts from Simone -
- when criticism hurts, sit with it to find the truth it contains
- Spirit gives us gifts before we need them. Are diminished numbers and aging gifts we/church/nation need now & for future?
- Jesus walked toward betrayal with love - and even encouraged Judas to :go do what you need to do!

More on some of this in later posts.

a KY monk

Friday, April 12, 2013

A God Unbounded!

Yesterday I wrote about a friend's memorial mass. While thinking about her unique life, I was looking for an adjective that might hint at her vision of God; I didn't find a satisfactory one. This morning one occurred to me: "Unbounded"!

This may or may not be a linguistically recognized adjective, but what it says to me is that God has no boundaries. Sure, "infinite" means that, but "unbounded" also says "unconstrained," "no limits," "free." I think Joyce's God would have been like this, so when her vision took her  "outside the box," which it did lots of times, God was there ahead of her.

As I reflected on this, I realized how important it is for me to make this aspect of God a more integral part of my spirituality than it is. If God is unbounded, with all that implies, it means I need to curtail my judgments, especially of people whose actions seem to be outside the normal expectations of society or even religions.

Over time, each family, culture, society or religion sets up a framework within which members are supposed to operate. Through history there are many stories of how groups treat people who "cross over" the boundary lines. We see extremes of this in the Salem witch trials, the McCarthy era & the Inquisition; more subtle instances show up with red lining in real estate, literacy tests for voting, etc. Then today, for example, there are the multitude of "looks" some people give others when a behavior or practice is considered over the edge, such as unusual haircuts, clothes, multiple tattoos, and so on.

Today, when someone crosses a line I perceive as significant in defining a boundary of appropriateness, righteousness, or whatever, I need to remind myself that my boundaries are not God's, because God doesn't have any. In my meditation and scripture discussions I've often pointed out that Jesus' whole life was spent breaking boundaries. He was always "crossing over" the lines that spoke about who was worthy and what was sacred. Now this observation has been brought a little closer to home.

Joyce, thanks for one more life lesson!

a ky monk