Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What Virgil Said

What Virgil Said in that Dream You Almost Remembered

Tell it –
Because no one heard it quite the way you did.

Describe it –
Because no one saw it quite the way you did.

Every soul bears its own unique witness;
Every eye carries its own vision of the world.

Tell your story
Because it is one part
Of the grand story of the universe.
Only when we have heard everyone’s story
Will we see the beauty
Of the whole.

Until then,
We make our way in a fractured world
Seeing only in part –
Waiting for the next piece
To fall into place.

So sit here now.
Move with the ocean
Breathe with the wind
And tell us what you saw
On your way over.

                                                        ~ CK

Image: Water color by William Blake. "In Purgatory, Dante and Statius sleeping while Virgil keeps watch" from Illustrations to Dante's Divine Comedy


Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday Music: While My Guitar Gently Weeps

From Live for Music (9/03/15):
More than a decade ago, a bevy of musical legends joined forces on stage to help honor George Harrison's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In what could be considered one of the most remarkable Rock Hall induction ceremony performances of all time, Prince, Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne and George's son Dhani Harrison took the stage in 2004 to perform an incredibly powerful rendition of The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Prince's solo is just out of this world, concluding with him mysteriously tossing his guitar into the air.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saturday Haiku: Autumn's Grace

knowing the seasons
the fallen leaf relaxes
into autumn's grace



Friday, September 25, 2015

Pope Francis Tells Congress What We Are Doing Right

... and thereby encourages us to do better

Pope Francis addresses the U.S. Congress
Photo by Win McNamee (Getty Images)

Pope Francis challenges political leaders by his commitment to the Gospel of Christ and Catholic social teaching. His embodiment of the church’s “preferential option for the poor” often upends the accepted social and economic structures of our day. Yet this Pope brings such hope wherever he goes and whenever he speaks, largely due to his pastoral approach.

That pastoral manner was evident yesterday when the Holy Father addressed a joint session of congress. He made a point in his opening remarks that though he was speaking to congress; his intent was to address the American people. His written work makes clear his stand on unfettered capitalism, care for the environment, care for the poor, and regard for all of life. Instead of lambasting, however, he was able to encourage a conflicted and strident nation by pointing out what was right about our country. (You can read the entire address here)

Pope Francis outlined his remarks to congress within the framework of four American lives: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton.
  • Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that 'this nation, under God, might have a new birth of freedom'. Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.”
  • Martin Luther King who led the march “from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his 'dream' of full civil and political rights for African Americans… Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.”
  • Dorothy Day for “her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed.”
  • Thomas Merton “who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.”

Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God. Four representatives of the American people.

The Pope’s address to congress did speak to the social, economic, political, and environmental challenges of our day.  He encouraged us to do more, yet even with the many challenges ahead, he was able to place those within the context of our better angels, affirming that we have rejected the temptation to imitate tyrants in our attempt to be freed from tyranny.

A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.

Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.

There can be no denying that this was a historic occasion in our nation’s capital. Some observers commented that they had never seen congress pay such close attention to any other person addressing that body. Let us hope that some sense of a striving for the common good will remain. Certainly those of us who take heart in efforts for justice and equity will be encouraged by this pastoral visit from Pope Francis.  Near the end of his address, the Pope reminded us of the examples he set out at the beginning:

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

After his address to congress, Pope Francis highlighted yet another thing we are doing right by forgoing lunch with politician in order to dine with the homeless outside St Patrick’s Catholic Church where Catholic Charities offers food and shelter for the homeless. 

Pope Francis with people at St. Maria's Meals Program of
Catholic Charities in Washington D.C. (CNS photo by Paul Haring)


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

My Father at 60

When I was in elementary school, sometimes I would walk places with my father. We might walk down the road to town, or walk down to the fish pond below our house. Sometimes I would look down and see his shadow. I would try to make my steps land within the shadow of his steps as we walked along. Though he died nineteen years ago, I still find myself trying to watch the shadow of his steps, as it were, as I examine my life to see how I’m doing. A couple of years ago, I wrote a poem about my father at 58 as I took time to evaluate my own life at the age of 58. This week I decided to do a similar thing since 60 seems to be a natural time to take stock of one’s life. I am sharing that first poem, “My Father at 58,” followed by a new one, “My Father at 60.”

My Father at 58

At certain times
I stop to check my life.
Where am I going?
How am I doing?
Where might I be headed?
Am I doing okay?

My automatic measure is to ask,
Where was my father at this point in his life?
Just as I walked in his shadow on summer days
Trying to match my steps to his
As we walked down toward the pond,
Even now I tend to automatically measure my steps to his
To see how I’m doing.

I count back the years –
Where was my father when he was 58?

Oh, but that was 1968.
A year of upheaval.
Our small community was frightened
By racial integration.
Our larger community was shocked by assassinations.
My father took one day at a time.
He did his best as teacher
To prepare one school for change.
He did his best
To provide for a family
And to see to our future
During unsettling times.

Turning my eyes to the present day,
I think I can be happy
Taking one day at a time.
I can keep on going
Because he made it through
Those unsettling times.

My Father at 60

The year was 1970.
He had successfully transitioned
From a career in the pastorate
To a career in education
Teaching in the public schools.
He shepherded a new flock
Serving as principle of the black high school
As we all transitioned
From segregation to full integration.
(Well, not all
There was that private school that opened up
To help the whites avoid equality).

He was also shepherding a family
At that late stage in life
With one son in college
One in high school,
And a son and daughter in junior high.
He continued to make his way
In the world
Which meant that he paved the way
For his own children
And for people of his community.
They called him “Preacher”
They called him “Teacher”
One friend always called him “Professor.”
And some called him “Brother Clyde.”

He navigated change throughout his life
And set an example for doing good
While navigating.

As I ask myself’
“How am I doing?”
And I look to see how my father was doing
At this stage in life,
The real questions become clearer:

Am I navigating change?
Am I doing good work?
Am I paving a way for others?

Photo by Jamie Grill (Getty Images)


Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday Music: A Broken (and beautiful) Hallelujah

Some of the purest and most authentic art arises from a place of pain, as is illustrated by Leonard Cohen's marvelous "Hallelujah" performed here by Lind, Nilsen, Fuentes, Holm. This song strikes a deep chord because we are all baffled kings singing broken hallelujahs.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Saturday Haiku: Sunset on the Lake

a fiery sunset
upon the cool still waters
darkness dwells below

Photo by Sharon Cauldfield Lewis


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hildegard of Bingen: Wellspring of Creativity

Hildegard of Bingen, whose feast day is today (September 17) is sometimes referred to as the patron saint of creativity. She has also been known as the patron saint of the culinary arts, having written many recipes including her "Cookies of Joy" recipe for "reducing bad humors" and "fortifying the nerves." Actually she is not an official patron saint of anything, which may be a good thing because to think of Hildegard merely as a “patron saint” is to gloss over her profound capabilities and influence.

Hildegard of Bingen was a polymath  an individual highly gifted in a variety of fields. She was skilled in the healing arts, having written two books on pharmaceutical herbs and the workings of the body. Her written works include theology, ethics, and biblical commentary. In addition, she composed music and wrote poetry. She was a visionary who brought religion, science, and art together.

St. Hildegard has a wide range of admirers today. She was recently been named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI (there are only 35 Doctors of the Church to date, and only four women). She is also of interest to feminist scholars and many in the New Age movement.  She claimed her knowledge came from divine visionary experiences, which may have lent credence to her words at a time when women had little voice. She challenged institutional corruption in the church and spoke out for social justice. There is even renewed interest in Hildegard’s music, with several modern recordings featuring her works.

A Pivotal Age

The Twelfth Century was a very dynamic period and St. Hildegard was right there in the thick of it, having lived from 1098 to 1179. Indeed, it was a pivotal time of shaking off many of the old ways and taking up new forms. Perhaps it is no wonder that the saint from Bingen is attracting more attention in our day when old forms are not working and our institutions which were developed during the Industrial Revolution are languishing and becoming ineffectual.

One example of how Hildegard’s understanding grew and developed as a result of her visionary mystical experiences is seen in the following quote in which she describes one of her visions:

"Listen: there was once a king sitting on his throne. Around Him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the king with great honor. Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground, and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I, a feather on the breath of God."

May we all come to see ourselves being borne up and empowered by the very breath of God. For people who want to celebrate a variety of life expressions,  for those who seek to participate in creativity, and for all of us who live in this pivotal age, it is good to spend some time today with such an incredible polymath as Hildegard of Bingen.

For more information check out the links below:

Image of St, Hildegard of Bingen from Abby of the Arts Dancing Monks Series


Monday, September 14, 2015

Monday Music: Callin' Me Home

I first heard this song by Barry McGuire when I was a college student. It was on the live double album, "To the Bride," which featured Barry McGuire and The 2nd Chapter of Acts in concert. It was an energetic album, yet this quiet number was definitely a highlight of the concert.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Saturday Haiku: Rice Paddies

rice paddies shimmer
in the afternoon sunlight
a lone tree reflects


Photo: Rice paddies in Thailand
Credit: Charles Kinnaird


Friday, September 11, 2015

For Those That Remain


      Some grieved, some waged war
      when many lives were taken.
      Some souls still wander.

                                             ~ CK


Photo: Twin Towers of Light
by Louis Jawitz
(Getty Images)

[Note: This post first appeared in 2013 as a Saturday Haiku feature on the anniversary of 9/11]


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Dog and the Dalai Lama

Recently, I came across the documentary, Sunrise/Sunset, by Russian filmmaker, Vitali Manski. It is an interesting look at a day in the life of His Holiness the Dalia Lama. I caught is on Netflix, but it is also available for free viewing at Culture I found it to be interesting, as I do anything about the Dalai Lama. Near the end of the film, however, I was intrigued by the "cameo appearance" of a dog who wandered by. I did a screen shot to catch that moment when you can still see the dog at the bottom left as the Dalai Lama is coming down the stairs. I was delighted to see that there was a dog at the Dalai Lama's house. I tried to imagine the interaction between His Holiness and his dog, and came up with the following poem.

The Dog and the Dalai Lama

It was early in the morning
Before light broke across the sky.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Made his way down the stairs.

After morning meditation
He descends
Into the mundane world
Of conflict, struggle,
Searching, gaining, and grasping.

A dog wags his tail
Crossing His Holiness’s path.
Perhaps the monk smiles
At his canine friend.
Perhaps his heart is made glad
When the dog welcomes him
To the day.

“Hello, my friend!” he might say.
“Dog nature welcome Dalai Lama nature,”
I imagine him chuckling.
“We come together to find Buddha nature –
For five minutes we show the world peace,
You and I –
Then have breakfast.” 

                                                              ~ CK


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Saturday Haiku: Lavender Breakout

lavender summer
breaking forth upon ghost wings
butterfly’s delight

Photo by Peggy Farmer


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

East Lake Park

East Lake Park

Egrets gather on the island
In the middle of the lake
Where ducks swim
Near the shore.

The path that circumnavigates the lake
Holds the last of the morning dew
As the sun makes its way
Across a blue sky
And the mighty oaks guard the perimeter.

Joggers run past
As I stop along the boardwalk.
Children are running
Trying to get their kite aloft
While an old man sits at the shore
And casts a line
From his rod and reel.

We all gather at the water’s edge
Like the ancient villagers
Of story and song
Who came to the waters each day
To fill their urns,
To tell their tales,
And to greet the day.
We are people who ebb and flow
Like the waters we visit.

Look upon this gathering, bright sun,
And see the wonders of life.
The young and the old find joy,
The birds find sustenance,
All centered around the waters of life.

                                                          ~ CK

Photo from trekbirmingham: Lake side walking path at East Lake Park

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