Thursday, June 30, 2016

Memo to John Cleese

My Dear Mr. Cleese,

In light of the recent referendum in which the UK voted to withdraw from the EU, are we to assume that we Americans will no longer be seeing that snide “Letter to America” from you stating that our independence is being revoked due to our election outcome and that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will be resuming monarchical duties over the states? After all, the English have now demonstrated a capacity for being ill-informed at the polls and thereby voting against their own best interests.

Yes, ill-informed reactionary voting – it’s a thing now. It seems to be associated with the popular vote and I suppose we must live with it on both sides of the Atlantic. You may prefer to call it the Americanization of England. Call it what you will, but please think twice before sending any more letters to America, and do enjoy your tea.

                                                                                                                                                                                               Yours Sincerely,
                                                                            George Clooney

[Note: I realize that that John Cleese's "Letter to America" was not actually written by John Cleese, but it was all in good fun, as is this "memo." ~ CK]


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Flashback: Writing Haiku

While I'm working on another project, I am re-posting some blog posts from the past. This one is from April 20, 2013 (during National Poetry Month) and it absolutely surprised me by becoming one of my all time most-viewed posts the very first day! My intention had been to offer an example of poetry that anyone could begin to try their hand at -- a gateway poetry, so to speak. I never imagined the number of hits my blog would get from that post. With that kind of interest, I decided to make haiku a regular feature, posting a new original haiku every Saturday. You could say that this post became a defining moment, sending me to a new poetic discipline which I have continued each week on my blog. 

As we celebrate National Poetry Month, it occurs to me that writing a haiku is one way that many who have never written a poem can begin to write. I remember back in junior high school English class when our teacher taught haiku. We actually spent most of the class time writing haiku and getting up to read our compositions. Some students who were not particularly known for their academic acumen were having a great time with the exercise. Below is a brief video lesson on writing haiku, or if you prefer written guidelines you can find a tutorial at here.  

 I read the Sophia tutorial and then wrote the following haiku:

The flowing waters

       of the tiny mountain stream

       speak of springtime peace.

Take a look at either one of the tutorials and try your hand at it. Haiku is a wonderful way to begin writing your own poetry.

[Note: since this original entry was posted, I went on to learn a few more things about writing haiku. You can read more about it on my post, Notes from a Haiku Workshop.]


Monday, June 27, 2016

Monday Music: The Pound Is Sinking

"Well I fear, my dear
That it's eminently clear
That you can't see the trees for the forest
Your father was an extraordinary man
But you don't seem to have inherited many of his mannerisms..."

Paul McCartney's Tug of War album came out in 1980. Every song on the album is superb. 1980 was right in the middle of the Maggie Thatcher years. I'm not sure what "The Pound Is Sinking' may have been in response to, or reacting against, but it seems appropriate for today.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Strawberry Moon

ancient cathedral
graced by a full moon above
old souls understand

Photo: Strawberry moon above Ely Cathedral (from the Ely Cathedral Facebook site)


Friday, June 24, 2016

Gazing at the Light with its own ageless eyes

[The following was originally posted July 31, 2013. I re-post it here as part of this month's Ramadan features]

I am using the holy month of Ramadan to celebrate interfaith connections. There are many examples of interfaith collaboration if we but take a moment to look.  Twelfth century Spain saw a beautiful collaboration among Christians, Jews and Muslims as has been described in The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews,and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by Maria Rosa Menocal.  Richard Rubenstein has also written a delightful book, Aristotle's Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Dark Ages. Rubenstein’s book captures the thrill and excitement of the rediscovery of Aristotle’s philosophy. He shows how the study of Aristotle revitalized European thought and at the same time gives us a glimpse into the interfaith collaboration that existed for a time in Medieval Europe. Menocal’s book demonstrates how interactions between Jews, Christians and Muslims in places like Toledo, Cordoba, and Seville resulted in a shared culture of art and architecture.

The Most Widely Read Poet in the United States

Poetry is another great medium for listening to voices from many avenues of faith and culture.  Rumi was a Persian poet who lived in the thirteenth century, spending most of his life in what is known today as Turkey (his scholar father moved the family from Persia to avoid Ghengis Khan’s invasion).  Although Rumi (known in Persia as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī) was a Sufi within the Islamic tradition, he is today the most widely read poet in the United States. His poetry is a beautiful example of the ability to transcend one’s own tradition to speak people across many traditions and cultures. One of Rumi’s poems, “One One One” declares a truth that can indeed transcend all vessels of tradition. He proclaims that “The lamps are different, but the light is the same.” Listen to a recitation and commentary of this poem in English and then scroll down to read the words.  May we take this moment to look beyond the barriers of fear and hate that continue to be constructed in our time.

One One One

The lamps are different.
But the Light is the same.
So many garish lamps in the dying brain's lamp shop,
Forget about them.
Concentrate on essence, concentrate on Light.
In lucid bliss, calmly smoking off its own hold fire,
The Light streams toward you from all things,
All people, all possible permutations of good,
evil, thought, passion.
The lamps are different,
But the Light is the same.
One matter, one energy, one Light, one Light-mind,
Endlessly emanating all things.
One turning and burning diamond,
One, one, one.
Ground yourself, strip yourself down,
To blind loving silence.
Stay there, until you see
You are gazing at the Light
With its own ageless eyes.

Mevlana Rumi (1207 - 1273)

Mevlevi Dervishes Perform (Sultanahmet - İstanbul - Turkey)
Credit: Kıvanç Niş
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:
 “The Mevlevi Order or the Mevleviye are a Sufi order founded by the followers of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi in 1273 in Konya (in Turkey at present). They are also known as the Whirling Dervishes due to their famous practice of whirling as a form of dhikr (remembrance of Allah). Dervish is a common term for an initiate of the Sufi Path.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Flashback: How Pete Seeger Taught Me about Forgiveness

[While I'm involved in another project, I am re-posting some of my favorite essays. The following essay appeared on February 22, 2012. It is one that continues to get "hits" and remains on the Top Ten most read blog posts for Not Dark Yet.]

I clearly remember the catalyst that moved me to grant forgiveness in my heart. That catalyst came in a single day through two separate NPR broadcasts back in April of 1995. It was on a Good Friday. At noontime I was listening to a portion of a Good Friday service being broadcast on the radio while I was in my car while running some errands. Two of the people reading scripture and offering commentary were Martin Luther King, Jr.’s son (Martin Luther King III) and the Methodist minister from Piedmont, Alabama (Kelly Clem) whose young daughter had been killed in church the year before when a tornado struck. I don’t remember who said what, but I remember the message that came across that there are times when we suffer losses and times when we must forgive those who have wronged us. At the forefront of my thoughts was my own need to forgive that person who had betrayed me some four years earlier.

Later that day, I was driving home, again listening to NPR – this time it was the “All Things Considered” news broadcast. Burl Ives had died and they were interviewing folk singer Pete Seeger, talking about Burl Ives’ life. Pete Seeger made the comment that when he thought of Burl Ives, he thought of that clear, strong, beautiful voice of his. The interviewer wanted to probe more deeply into Seeger’s thoughts. What about that time during the McCarthy Red Scare, when there were hearings in Washington, D.C. before the House Committee on Un-American Activities? Burl Ives had testified before the committee, exonerating himself and implicating Pete Seeger, resulting in Seeger being blacklisted along with other folk singers of the day. Seeger’s career was severely affected by that awful reactionary time. Seeger’s response to the interviewer was, “Sometimes you just have to forgive and move on with your life.” He spoke with such conviction and serenity. I was moved by that interview. I said to myself, “If Pete Seeger can forgive Burl Ives, then I can forgive ______.”

It didn’t happen in an instant, but I made that my discipline for the Easter season that year. I know that my own health and well being were positively affected by my move to forgive and get on with my life. I should hasten to add that this lesson is not a one time thing. Since that day, there have been other occasions where I have struggled to forgive and move on. 

I should also add that I have at times been the one who needed to be forgiven. Furthermore, I have no doubt that because of the nature of human interaction, there have been people who have had to forgive me for things I was not even aware of doing. Living with others always leads to hurt and offense. If we are aware, we sometimes realize the hurt we have inflicted and can ask forgiveness. Other times, we are not aware until it is brought to our attention. There are still other times when, just as we must forgive and move on, someone else finds the grace to forgive us and move on – even when we are too blind to realize the hurt that we caused. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Monday Music: Redemption Song (Bob Marley)

Here is another Playing for Change feature, with artists around the world joining in to perform Bob Marley's "Redemption Song."

Redemption  Song
By Bob Marley

Old pirates, yes, they rob I,
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit.

But my hand was made strong
By the hand of the Almighty.
We forward in this generation

Won't you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
'Cause all I ever have,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but ourselves can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
'Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it's just a part of it,
We've got to fulfill the book.

Won't you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
'Cause all I ever have,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but ourselves can free our mind.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
'Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it's just a part of it,
We've got to fulfill the book.

Won't you help to sing,
These songs of freedom?
'Cause all I ever had,
Redemption songs.
All I ever had,
Redemption songs
These songs of freedom

Songs of freedom


Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Fires of Moloch Are (Still) Burning

Friday marked the one year anniversary of the deadly shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and we are now one week from the incident in Orlando which was the deadliest mass shooting our country has yet seen. Mass shootings are entirely too common in the U.S. For that reason, I am re-posting my essay about the "fires of Moloch," which we seem hell-bent on stoking.

Sadly, this is the third time this essay has been published. Once before on my blog, then another time at AMERICABlog. Each time it was following another unfortunate incident of gun violence. There have been several other posts as well on this blog regarding gun violence. Three years ago I posted an open letter to Senator Harry Reid in which I took the senator to task for not bringing a bill to the senate floor which would have included a ban on assault rifles. That failure to act was in spite of the fact that a majority of American favor gun control.

I stated in that open letter that "We need a government that works and a congress that can take action. We do not need elected officials held captive by a gun lobby that speaks for the gun-making industry rather than for gun owners (No one believes that the NRA got all those millions of dollars to lobby from membership fees)."

Yet again we must ask why we as a society are so willing to let so many citizens die in mass shootings, and why we continue to offer up our children to our own modern day fires of Moloch.

Gun Violence in America

Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of Ben Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel.
                                                                                                                  2 Chronicles 28:3
And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of Ben Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination
                                                                                                                  Jeremiah 32:35

Illustration from Foster Bible Pictures
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 

Moloch was the ancient Phoenician and Canaanite god known in the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy for the practice of propitiatory child sacrifice.  There are few images more horrifying than that of fearful people offering up their own children to be burned on the altar of a domineering death-making god. Yet in our helplessness in confronting our devotion to guns, we are seeing the fires of Moloch burning in 21st century America.

We have seen this week yet another disturbing incident of promising lives brought to a sudden end by gun violence. Once again there is talk of stronger gun control laws. Will we be once again impotent when it comes to making any real changes? Our failure to act even in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre  in which 20 young children were killed, all of them 6 and 7 years old, demonstrated that we would rather sacrifice our beautiful preschoolers than do anything that might be perceived as a desecration of the Bill of Rights. Our words say that we honor American freedom, while our actions say that we live in fear and have so little regard for our children that we will willingly feed them to our modern day fires of Moloch. [To see a map of all the mass shooting since Sandy Hook, go here]

In a country whose politicians love to shout “God Bless America!” at the end of their speeches, and whose people speak of faith in the public square and argue about putting the Ten Commandments on display, it is the ancient and brutal god Moloch who holds sway over so much of our public discourse. Indeed the fires of Moloch continue to consume our children while nothing is done to extinguish those flames.

Why Do We Tolerate Death and Glorify Violence?

According to The Brady Center, “Over 18,000 American children and teens are injured or killed each year due to gun violence. This means nearly 48 youth are shot every day, including 7 fatalities.” 

America has a problem with gun violence

·         One in three people in the U.S. know someone who has been shot.
·         On average, 31 Americans are murdered with guns every day and 151 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room.
·         Every day on average, 55 people kill themselves with a firearm, and 46 people are shot or killed in an accident with a gun.
·         The U.S. firearm homicide rate is 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population.
·         A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used to kill or injure in a domestic homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense.

Gun Violence Takes a Massive Toll on American Children

·         More than one in five U.S. teenagers (ages 14 to 17) report having witnessed a shooting.
·         An average of seven children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day.
·         American children die by guns 11 times as often as children in other high-income countries.
·         Youth (ages 0 to 19) in the most rural U.S. counties are as likely to die from a gunshot as those living in the most urban counties. Rural children die of more gun suicides and unintentional shooting deaths. Urban children die more often of gun homicides.
·         Firearm homicide is the second-leading cause of death (after motor vehicle crashes) for young people ages 1-19 in the U.S.
·         In 2007, more pre-school-aged children (85) were killed by guns than police officers were killed in the line of duty.

Gun Violence is a Drain on U.S. Taxpayers

·         Medical treatment, criminal justice proceedings, new security precautions, and reductions in quality of life are estimated to cost U.S. citizens $100 billion annually.
·         The lifetime medical cost for all gun violence victims in the United States is estimated at $2.3 billion, with almost half the costs borne by taxpayers.

Americans Support Universal Background Checks

·         Nine out of 10 Americans agree that we should have universal background checks, including three out of four NRA members.
·         Since the Brady Law was initially passed, about 2 million attempts to purchase firearms have been blocked due to a background check. About half of these blocked attempts were by felons.
·         Unfortunately, our current background check system only applies to about 60% of gun sales, leaving 40% (online sales, purchases at gun shows, etc.) without a background check.

One question we must answer is why does our society so quickly come to the defense of guns after every deadly incident of gun violence? There are those who call for change, but such calls are always met with a push back from people who cannot tolerate any change in our gun laws. Lawmakers are forever paralyzed by the gun lobbyists and the fear-mongers.

Freedom or Fear?

Why are our citizens and our politicians are unable to put a stop to gun violence? If there were the political will, assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons could be banned tomorrow. The sad fact is, however, that our people seem to be too fearful to consider a peaceful society. We say that we are honoring the Second Amendment to the Constitution  that we hold the Bill of Rights to ensure our freedom  but the truth is, we live in fear. Why else would we be so powerless to stop our current practice of sacrificing children to the fires of gun violence?

Poster from The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Picture depicting worship of Moloch from The Jewish Encyclopedia


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Little Pond

gazing at the pond
 the pilgrim’s eyes find comfort
great depth reflected

Image: A little pond in Hutto, Texas
Artist: Robert Gregory Phillips
Medium: Watercolor


Friday, June 17, 2016

Rumi: What Was Said to the Rose

During the month of Ramadan, I am taking time to celebrate the gifts of our Islamic friends. The Persian Poet, Rumi, is a wonderful gift to celebrate. Today's post first appeared on my other blog, Music of the Spheres:

Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī, better known in the English-speaking world as Rumi, was a Sufi who lived in 13th century Persia. He is today the best-selling poet in the United States. Coleman Barks has done remarkable work interpreting and communicating Rumi's poetry. This recitation with musical accompaniment illustrates why the Sufi poet is so popular today.

Coleman Barks performs a poem by Rumi, "What Was Said to the Rose" at one of the Mythic Journeys conferences. Musical accompaniment by Eugene Friesen and Arto Tuncboyaciyan.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sacred Harp and the Sound of Eternal Essence

The National Sacred Harp Convention meets again in Birmingham this weekend, starting today. (details here). Today I am re-posting one of my past essays from my own experiences at the annual convention.

In Martin Scorsese’s documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Ravi Shankar is heard to say that sound is God. Today I made a connection with that concept as I attended the opening sessions of the National Sacred Harp Convention.  Sacred Harp is an old acapella style of singing that came to this country by way of the English settlers. It was taught to people by using shaped notes to designate, and a "fa-sol-la" method for vocalizing each note. It was kept alive in this country primarily by the Primitive Baptists in Appalachia. Back in 2011, I wrote an essay about my first experience with sacred harp singing. 

When I described that initial encounter, I wrote, “I was captivated, stirred on the inside, tears threatening to well up – and no words had been sung yet. It was that bracing harmony of pure notes filling the sunlit space. The sound reminded me of the Bulgarian women’s folk singing that has attracted many listeners  since the 1990 recording, Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares. There was a similar directness and exuberance, a hearty primitive and uplifting – even startling – vocal effect.”

Not Your Ordinary Words

As I attended the Sacred Harp Convention this year, I was fascinated by the turn of phrase used in many of the lyrics and song titles. For example, Hymn 112 is titled, “The Last Words of Copernicus.” It speaks of the day when this life is over and the light from the heavenly orbs, the sun and moon, will no longer be needed.

In Hymn 450 (Elder) the lyrics include:

Life’s an ever varied flood,
Always rolling to its sea:
Slow or quick, or mild or rude,
Tending to eternity.

Hymn 504 (Woodstreet) is an account of Psalm 137 in which the psalmist mourns the Babylonian captivity saying, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.”  Poems and songs have been written about “The waters of Babylon,” but this hymn phrases it:

When we our wearied limbs to rest
Sat down by proud Euphrates’ stream
We wept with doleful thoughts oppressed,
And Zion was our mournful theme.”

I don’t think I have seen references to the Euphrates or to Copernicus in other Christian hymnals.  The lyrics to Hymn 450, in spite of the typically conservative orientation of sacred harp, are beautifully reminiscent of the Buddhist or Hindu concept of all of life returning to its source.

Experiencing the Sound

Yet in spite of the fascinating words in the text of those sacred harp hymns, it is the sound that is the most impressive thing.  The singers are arranged in a square with sopranos, altos, tenors and basses each seated on the sides of the square. The one leading the song stands in the open space in the middle of that square. Sacred harp singers call this space “The holy of holies” because they say it is the absolute best spot to be in to get the full effect of the music.  At this point, I can only imagine what the sound must be like in that holy of holies, because simply sitting in the congregation hearing the music is enough to lift me into a divine presence. The effect of that powerful sound brings me back to the words of Ravi Shankar, that sound is God.

I found a fuller quote from Ravi Shankar that elaborates upon the concept of sound and God:

“Our tradition teaches us that sound is God- Nada Brahma. That is, musical sound and the musical experience are steps to the realisation of the self. We view music as a kind of spiritual discipline that raises one’s inner being to divine peacefulness and bliss. We are taught that one of the fundamental goals a Hindu works towards in his lifetime is a knowledge of the true meaning of the universe - its unchanging, eternal essence….The highest aim of our music is to reveal the essence of the universe it reflects, and the ragas are among the means by which this essence can be apprehended.”
                         [From David Murphy Conducts at ]

Of the hymns I heard today, there were many glorious moments. One of those hymns whose lyrics and musical sound converged quite beautifully was Hymn 178 (tune: Africa)

Now shall my inward joys arise,
And burst into a Song;
Almighty Love inspires my Heart,
And Pleasure tunes my Tongue.

God on his thirsty Zion-Hill
Some Mercy-Drops has thrown,
And solemn Oaths have bound his Love
To shower Salvation down.

Why do we then indulge our Fears,
Suspicions and Complaints?
Is he a God, and shall his Grace
Grow weary of his saints?

The words are by the English hymnist Isaac Watts. The tune is by the American choral composer, William Billings. To hear sacred harp singers render this beautiful hymn, go here.

[To hear 504 (Woodstreet) about mourning by the proud Euphrates, go here]

For our sacred harp finale, here is a recording of “The Last Words of Copernicus.” The recording was made my Alan Lomax, the ethnomusicologist who recorded and preserved so much of American folk music.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Flashback: Experiences of Mystery and Wonder

While I'm involved in another project, I am re-posting some of my favorite essays. A version of the following essay appeared in a series of essays in May of 2010.

“I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.”
                      – Harry Emerson Fosdick

A Childhood Encounter

It was not my first experience of mystery, but it makes for a good story. I was eight years old and it was a breezy summer evening. We lived in the country and our closest neighbor owned a horse pasture that lay between our house and his. On this particular evening, I happened to be out in the back yard as dusk was slowly moving to twilight. I looked down below our yard to where our neighbor's pasture ran adjacent to the woods. It was there that I saw the strangest sight. It resembled a white sheet floating in the air and dancing about in the lower corner of the pasture. I was astounded and perplexed. I had heard ghost stories and had seen them portrayed on TV, and I began to wonder if I might actually be seeing a ghost. The sight must have been two or three hundred feet away, so I slowly walked down toward the pasture fence to get a better view.

My heart was pounding, I was breathing deeply, my eyes were unblinking and fixed upon the mysterious object that floated, danced, and changed shape as it moved about in sometimes a circular motion, sometimes an erratic fashion. I felt both fear and fascination as I continued to creep in for a closer look. As I got closer, I heard snorting and footsteps – it was definitely alive. How much closer should I get? Should I bolt and run back to the house? At that critical moment my eyes detected what I had not been able to see further back in the dim twilight. I saw the shape of a brown Shetland pony who had white shoulders and a white back. Our neighbor was temporarily keeping a friend's pony in his pasture. There was a brief moment there when fear and laughter co-mingled. Suddenly the movement, the snorting and the hoof beats all made sense as I realized that from my initial distance I had only been able to see the white markings on the pony.

I ran back to the house in excitement. I had to tell someone what I had just experienced. The first person I saw was my older brother who was watching TV.         

"Richard!" I said, "You gotta hear this – I thought I saw a ghost!" I then began recounting my twilight adventure. My brother, who was four years older than I (in fact, he is still four years older than I am) interrupted my story.

"Did you say you walked down to see it?" he asked.

"Yes!" I answered.

"You didn't think it was a ghost or you would have run away."

"But I did think so at first," I countered.

"No," he said, "you would have run."

*  *  *
Seventeen years later I was in seminary in California. In a Philosophy of Religion class I was reading Rudolf Otto's classic work, Das Heilige. Actually, I was reading the English translation, The Idea of the Holy. Rudolf Otto was writing about encountering mystery and wonder in the context of religious experience. He didn't like to use the word holy because of certain baggage that came along with the word. Instead, he coined the term, numinous to refer to the experience of mystery, and he used the term, mysterium tremendum to refer to the divine mystery itself. He wanted to get back to a more basic primal concept of religious encounter.

At one point Mr. Otto said that when one encounters the vast and indescribable mysterium tremendum one has the feeling of fear and the urge to run, but at the same time one is attracted to the mystery. When I read that, I wanted to go back to my brother and show him, "You see! Here's a German theologian who says you can experience fear and attraction simultaneously – that’s why I didn't run but went to get a closer look, even when I thought it might be a ghost." But I didn't tell him that because he's four years older than I am. Besides, I doubt if my brother even remembers the incident.  

Looking back on that encounter long ago, I realize that all I need to know about experiencing mystery and wonder I had already learned by eight years of age:

      1. I had other-worldly terminology to ascribe to the experience.
      2. I knew the simultaneous feelings of fear and attraction.
      3. I learned that it is difficult to convey to others the impact of a subjective
      4. There will be people who will discount one's experience of mystery.
      5. I learned that truth does not diminish the impact of a subjective experience
          of mystery.

Walking in Mystery

The very existence of life is grounds for mystery and wonder to me. The fact that life arose on this planet and has evolved in such variety and with such tenacity that every square inch of the planet – land, water, and air – is occupied by some life-form. That in itself is a wondrous phenomenon. Even more mysterious and wondrous is the fact that you and I are present to talk about it. We are representative of the arrival of human consciousness. With human awareness, Life became capable of observing and reflecting upon, as well as participating in creation. With over 7 billion people in the world it is safe to say that not a single sunrise or sunset goes unobserved, and on an increasing basis, hardly a sparrow goes unnoticed.

Why do we have those direct experiences of mystery and wonder? We walk in mystery and wonder every day. For practical reasons, perhaps, it is easy to ignore the wonder or to take the mystery for granted. Then on occasion the curtain is torn for a brief moment and we experience the impact of the vast mystery and wonder that is around us, beneath us and within us.

However and for whatever reason we experience mystery, it seems to be human nature to celebrate it. This is why some television audiences have been enthralled to hear the now familiar French horns followed by the voice-over narration, "Space...the final frontier..." It is why many flock to see the latest horror flick on the big screen. For others it is the eager discussion of UFO's or lost civilizations. Still others prefer the symphony, or a spiritual commitment as a means of celebrating mystery.                                     

My own experiences of mystery and wonder led me first to poetry then to theology, then back to poetry. I think poetry is a more primary response. Theology, like philosophy and psychology are secondary responses in that they require categories, definitions, rules and analyses. Music and dance may give us an even more primary response since they can be done without words.

Some would say that the best response to mystery and wonder is a theological one. Others prefer to give psychological and sociological interpretations to experiences of mystery. Carl Jung was one who saw the psychological and religious implications of mystery and greatly elucidated psychological concepts to promote personal and spiritual growth.

There are a thousand and one ways to celebrate the mystery and wonder about us. We humans are naturally adept at making meaning out of our lives, and doing it in a palatable manner. At some point, or at some level there is the realization that all of our activities and celebrations only hint at the Great Mystery that is beyond words, beyond deeds, even beyond silence, but somehow underlies existence itself.

Photo by Michael J. Bennett
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Monday, June 13, 2016

Monday Music: Joan Baez and David Crosby Sing "Blackbird"

Joan Baez and David Crosby performed "Blackbird," a song written by Lennon–McCartney, during the Joan Baez 75th Birthday Celebration at the Beacon Theatre in New York on January 27, 2016.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Morning Web

the web of morning
rests on eternity’s bough
holding all the world


Photo by Mary Hunt


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