Friday, December 5, 2014

musings on violence in america

With the rise of American culture in the 20th century we also had the rise of the industrial state of mind. Food became mass produced, cars, tools, entertainment, houses, etc. all became mass produced at the lowest cost for the most people. It was wonderful in many ways. But there were costs and we are now paying them.
Our food became more simple, our language became more simple, our music became more simple our government became more simple.
The recent violence in our racial problems is one of racism that has been festering for centuries and effecting minorities in many direct ways,  and they are now speaking up with a desire to change things. The white community was also effected, but has never addressed their issues,  and are only now having to do such under duress.
In the same way we have seen the rise in sexual awareness that has erupted into our news; from church leaders abusing people to recent revelations of celebrities such as Woody Allen and Bill Cosby’s rampant affairs.  Apparently the 60’s and 70’s were a time when sexual boundaries were thrown out the window. It was not a conservative or liberal thing, but a part of a much more nuanced and complex situation.
One small corner of all these problems is the use of power. We have been simplifying our use of power, more and more. And the militarization of the police force is a result of this.
The example I want to use is a situation in an airport recently. I understand that this is just one example and that there is much more to this than I am proposing. But planes were late, connections tight and passengers were getting anxious. Most of the workers at the airport were amazing in their graciousness. But as we were waiting in the tunnel connecting the plane with the terminal for our bags, the line went near to the gate door. Several people were dashing out to check times and gates where they would have to run towards.  A young man who had some sort of airline connection came and assessed the situation and apparently was sent to keep order. His understanding of power was to yell at everyone, and to rise the level of turmoil higher. He immediately yelled at one man who had checked for his gate to stop and that he could not get his bag, it would be given him when all other bags were given out, because he was at the end of the line and crossed out to see the gate number. The police were brought in to arrest him or detain him and he only got more agitated. It was a simplification of power. When confronted with a problem or turmoil use more force quickly to overwhelm the problem. Like dousing a fire with an overwhelming amount of water. This has its place, but when you are one lone man and a more mature use of coercion might be in order was not imagined. Power is simply used to overwhelm, not be in relationship.
Actually, as I write this, I am thinking that all of this leads down to a lessening of our understanding and experiencing of relationships. We have lost extended family connections, we no longer write letters, or call – we might text. We have closer relations to celebrities, personalities or images than actual people. And this would then roll over onto our policing, and our relationship with authority and government. It is only to be expected.
With the return of the local and organic food movement, we need to also add a movement to return to relationships. Young people are not marrying anymore, well the commitment and understandings of being in relationship have consequences. If not marriage, than what? The baby has been thrown out with the bath water, and no one has gone to get or help the baby or bring in new water.
It is interesting in the problems of family and schools becoming more of a problem, we teach sex through porn, policing through violent movies and video games, relationships through sitcoms, cooking through supermarket displays of prepared items.
Houston we have a problem.
Actually, we need epiphanies of communal understandings toward a larger unity to counter the separating forces of technology.  We have been cursed by our blessings for far too long.
All the issues are connected.  The sexual transformation and revelations and the racial transformation and allegations.  We are in changing times, let us process, think and relate with more maturity and dignity than the voices of those paid large amounts of money to keep the flames burning higher, such as television pundits. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

a couple of poems I wrote while away

A rubbish of regrets
     are piled high
                as I look back now
                on being a father
                in the shadow
                   of a Father God,
perfect in love,
exposing what I have missed
in my shot at love
and left a mess around the targets of my desire

A sludge of stress
streatched thinner than a thread
constantly pulling
tight, knotted around
my heart and mind
In the presence of the Divine
who always lets go
exposes the sticky dew of the threads of my web.

A mire of madness
swells beneath my dreams
and sucks my shoes from my feet
as I try to move.
So I stop.
And I see a frog,
hear a duck
and feel the worms
and finally become incarnate
with the mud my Mary
   apart from God now
so that I might know the love of God now.

What has God ordained?

Hoist high the failures
And broadcast my misfortune,
These are the seeds of my legacy
 This is the source of my Nile
        nourishing any semblance of meaning.

Set the course to where I have vowed not to go
and do not look back;
set as a sail  my dirty laundry
For here begins my epic tale,
This is my journey to Ithaca

What has God ordained?
Not my wisdom gilded expertise,
But the caves in my depression,
and the sores that might have healed,
      still oozing with tears of regret;
Here is where the holy hands are extended.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

the privatization of faith

We have abandoned our churches and religious institutions
for an individual experience of faith and belief
one that cannot be told to us, but discovered within us.
In doing such we have privatized our religion,
creating a new industry
where those who can present a new idea, or catch our heart,
can make a good living marketing their modalities.
We do so apart from many others
and like the church creating the idea of sin
so that we can understand redemption,
our new way needs our anxiety
in order to offer an antidote,
though careful not to alleviate the cause
so that cures can be offered again.

Friday, November 7, 2014

election reflection

We just finished the most recent election cycle and it has caused me to reflect upon elections.  What was more interesting to me, though, was our recent diocesan convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine.
At the convention we had several resolutions regarding the injustices inflicted upon the Palestinians by the Israeli government. This came up three years ago and was defeated and returns again.
The Episcopal Peace Fellowship had a good issue and obvious injustices that they wanted to address, but the complete defeat of their resolutions caused me to reflect upon how one gets things done and passed in an institution.
The first observation I had is that it is very important to not connect too deeply or personally with the cause.  When the cause and its success becomes tied to one's own identity, emotions and well being then one defeats one's own cause. This became evident to me when I watched people become more concerned about people's well being and not about the issue.  When the speaker found himself advocating a losing cause he became more adamant and forceful and began to equate a vote for his cause with Jesus and a vote against as a vote against Jesus. I watched around the room and people were immediately shutting down and reacting very negatively with his tactic.
If the process was seen as a long term project, and not simply two attempts at all or nothing, then progress could have been made more effectively.
I found myself reminded that politics on any level is all about compromise and relationship.  The issues follow and one has to be in it for the long haul to make effective change.
In Maine when the gay right to marriage was defeated, those working for its passage went local and spent years building a base, building relationships and working step by step and then when it came back, it passed easily. And the people had all the relationships to build upon for further issues that will come up.
The other thoughts I had was that it is always important to find common ground, no matter how thin and start there. And from there to discover the relationships and to find love for those on all sides, people hear better when they feel that the other person cares for them.  And I am more likely to change myself when I am in a loving environment and not under attack.
Being right does not cause others to change or vote your way, especially if the argument is airtight as it leave no ability for others to breath.
Being open, even to the problems that will ensue; being willing to engage, even if it means taking longer than planned; being willing to adapt and change as the process unfolds, especially when it leads into new territory - this will bring about change and win any election.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

evolving images

Over the last few days I have been reflecting upon how our human reasoning has evolved or has been effected by the technical advancements in image making. From the advent of the camera, to the digital age we have seen a revolution in images to express ideas and communicate with each other. In the old cartoon, the Jetsons, there was the phone where one saw the person that you were talking with and it was way-out future thinking. Now with Skype that is in the present and an everyday experience.
A friend was reflecting on reading the original text of Frankenstein and how the language and writing style was so far advanced from our present time. Young people used to get lost more often in books, now it is more common to get lost in one’s phone, tablet or computer. Movies tell the stories now, or television, not as often books. There are series that captivate our imaginations in books, like the Harry Potter series, but even there, they are soon made into movies and the actors become the images of the characters we once only imagined in our mind.
            The use of images has especially effected our understanding of sexuality, as images of pretty women are used to sell everything. The advent of photoshop has made an unrealistic perception of beauty now the norm. Simply looking at modes of 100 years ago to the present will show how images and thinness has become the new norm for beauty, and even an unnatural thinness at that – all this at the time we are actually getting bigger.  There is something connected in this paradox. It profoundly effects women and their self-perception and much has been written about this.

            I have been recently thinking how this ideal female beauty and very limited male images has perhaps also led to an effect upon men, one where they perhaps do not have an honest awareness of their own bodies. The constant images of women, of beauty and of others has led to a lack of involvement actually with others and as a result, perhaps, a greater lack in connectivity in any meaningful way to the male’s own self or body. Men then act out, or behave in a disconnected way from their bodies from this slow evolution from actual relations to relations via images. These are initial thoughts that I have been having as part of a larger reflection upon the growing use of images over words within our society.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What I fought was what I needed

For years I have tried to fit in and be a contributing voice within the Episcopal Church. Time and again, I would run for an office, volunteer for a committee or simply offer to help but always seemed to be overlooked. It became a frustration and there were times of deep hurt in the disappointments. Being a white male in the United States and in the Church there was an expectation, I felt, to offer my help, to be of service, to lead when needed and to represent the whole. For over 30 years it just became one large frustration. Finally, it has recently dawned on me that this was not a rejection, but rather a blessing. By being marginalized I have come to understand what women, gays and people of color have experienced in the church for generations. It has in fact been an educational process to help me finally understand the larger church and my role in it. White men oftentimes are characterized by the stereotype or generalization as people who just don't "get it". Oftentimes they can be clueless to the struggles and challenges others experience. This long journey of being overlooked has in fact been the one way in which I can slowly come to understand how more people experience life, and how many others have also been marginalized to the great detriment of the church and society.
I prepare to go to another convention of the church, but I have come to a place where it does not matter much any more. I do not need to fit in, I am no longer desirous, nor have a need to serve and lead in any way. There are issues I might speak up on, and people I want to see.  There is a memory of hurt and pain that will always be a part of my story. But meeting and being with others in this time is far more important than being heard, or making a difference. The need that has grown more focused for me is the need to be where God needs me and that might be in the church or not.
I remember years ago a friend challenging me after a particularly hard time of rejection and my endlessly going over it and rehashing it, he said, "how long are you going to go on like this".  It has been many years on and off with different issues that reignite pain and struggles, and each new time all the past returns. But when the focus and primary need has changed it does allow for me to refocus and let some of the past drift by. I have circled through burn out a number of times and made great mistakes and dropped the ball more times than I want to remember, but always do. And these are the things that make my resume', these shortcomings along with my long-time struggles to fit in and never quite doing it, are my strengths. God has blessed me time and again, and I have repeatedly prayed for them to go away. Thanks be to God for the unrelenting and never ceasing need to bless again and again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The effects and enhancement of our image

More and more we are becoming a visual people, what once passed for a news article, or any kind of writing, could be understood without any images. Now, it seems that images are more important, or at least as important as the written part of the story. The images are what we first look at, and then the writing. Advertising texts have become more and more terse with a stronger emphasis on images.
Even in worship settings, there is more and more emphasis on visual stimulous. Though, historically this has always been the case with stained glass windows, paintings and statuary. But most of the images were aimed at teaching those who could not read the stories and messages of the faith.  Now we are using the images to reach those who can read, but whose understanding is more focused on images.
And a side result, it seems to me, is that we are losing our own grasp of living and moving our lives more and more onto the world of images. The rise of selfies, the home videos, photo shoots, it is all a way to make us feel more alive, yet in fact it is moving us from live to simply an image on a screen or paper.  The understanding of relationship in images is interesting, to have pictures of the relationship somehow makes it more real, looking at them, making the images, and finding ways to display them all take away from the actual time of being together with someone. It is important to have images, to remember the past, to hold onto who we are, where we have been and to honor such with an image. But, it is my perception that the effects of television and movies, the internet and more accessible photographic technologies have made the reality of images seem more real than the actual moments lived that are to be captured on film.
I have been trying to learn to be a better model, to have my picture taken more effectively. This has arisen after looking at my picture, as a priest, in some wedding pictures. I have come to see that the more I am able to simply be the priest and able to take better pictures, than the more the viewer will notice the bride and groom and not me – this is the way it should be.  But in learning to have my picture taken I am also learning to be more present in the living of my life and enjoying of the moment that is happening, and if the picture is taken than fine, if not then that is fine as well. But there is a desire to discover myself, that has emerged in the relationship with having my picture taken. I am seeing myself for the first time, or in ways I never knew before. It is cathartic and it is enlightening, and it is exciting. But it can become quickly more an end in itself that a tool for self discovery. And this, too, is a part of the growing understanding of life through images. Having the picture taken and thinking of how to take it, how to arrange it etc. all becomes an experience that adds identity and excitement, but there is also a let down, after the picture has been taken and days go by.  Somehow the moments that were without pictures seem to age better in my mind than those with a picture. In fact soon the picture becomes the memory and not the moment.
There are unintended blessings, epiphanies and opportunities that have emerged with the increased and enhanced technologies of image making. There are also dangers and drawbacks that are also emerging, some of these might in fact be steps backwards and not advances for our souls and minds.

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