Healing

This week half the nation is in elation and half is in mourning. Both sides probably feel like the world has shifted on its axis. Some feel like a new dawn is breaking, others feel like the world is no longer as safe as it was just a few days ago. After the cantankerous depths to which the campaign season sank some people are just feeling depressed and angry. In spite of all of that, the diversity of feelings, reactions and visions of the future, we are still one country, one society, and one big community. As my Bishop said in his comments, “There is no us and them but only “we the people.”  So we move forward.”

Many are praying. Interfaith Power and Light New Mexico reproduced a prayer written by Pope Francis in his encyclical, “On Care for our Common Home,” which reads,

Bring healing to our lives

that we may protect the world and not prey on it,

that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction…

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,

to be filled with awe and contemplation,

to recognize that we are profoundly united

with every creature as we journey toward your infinite light…

Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.

 

Sister Pat Bergen, CSJ wrote this:

Healer of Our Every Ill,
Breathe in and among all of us who dwell in this land.
Soothe our wounds. Calm our fears.
Mend our divisions.
Hope of All Tomorrows,
Open our deaf ears and fill us with Compassion.
Tender our hearts.
Inspire creative ideas to address the cries of our sisters, brothers and Earth itself.
Send forth your Spirit of Love and Unity
Transform pointed fingers of blame into hands open in reverence to receive one another.
Fan into flame the gift of our founding
And let us be known again as a people
United for the goodness, justice and peace of all people forever.
Amen

May years ago my father taught me a very important concept. He called it “the faithful opponent.” This is the one who opposes you, but does so out of a deep commitment to the community to which you both belong. He or she does so out of the depths of their own convictions, yet at the same time refuses to walk away from the table. They are faithful in the sense that their agenda is not domination but truth, not power but genuine community. Whether your prayer is on your knees or in action in the world, this is a time for courage. Now is the time to stand forth bravely on the side of community rather than isolation, unity rather than division, diversity rather than uniformity, love rather than ego. Now more than ever we must claim and articulate the truth of our unity.

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Voting

I voted early. I am by nature an impatient person, and I didn’t want to stand in line, so I went in and cast my vote.

I’m impatient in another sense, though. I’m impatient with all the mudslinging. I’m impatient with the impertinence of candidates to think that I will think well of them if they can get me to think ill of their opponents. It paints them all with the same brush.

I’m impatient with the way candidates brush over complicated issues with quick-fix solutions. Appealing to peoples’ anxiety can get you elected, but then you end up being a leader of the anxious, which means you will have to disappoint them when the chips are down and you have to do something unpopular. To do otherwise is to hand control of the country to the most anxious among us, and a true leader knows better than that. Again, the differences between them seem to be hard to find from this perspective.

I’m impatient with the way each promises to do more than they can do. The office of the President of the United States has good and necessary controls and limits. More is done on the basis of influence and persuasion than outright command, which means there is always a “what if” on any promise made. The one who promises the world and then delivers it by command is not a president but a monarch—and the only difference between a monarch and a tyrant is whether or not I like her or his decisions.

In spite of all this, to not vote is to cast my vote to the winds of the most anxious, and I am not willing to do that, so I voted. And now that I’ve voted I don’t have to listen to the last-minute meaningless mudslinging and posturing and quick fixes and overblown promises. I’ll just patiently wait until next Tuesday to find out the election results, and then I will throw my support behind whoever wins to the limits of my conscience, because that’s the way of democracy.

And I will continue to pray for our nation, it’s leadership and its peoples, because we have a lot of good to give the world.

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Wonder

I’m reading phenomenology. I know that’s tantamount to admitting insanity, but there you go. The thing about phenomenology is that, as the study of our lived experience, it requires digging down below the “taken-for-granted.” That is a skill not easily developed. It’s kind of like pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. To a certain degree, the tradition admits, this is an impossible task. Nonetheless, it is what the phenomenologist strives to do, and one of the key tools in the toolbox is a sense of wonder. Wonder strips away what we expect and sees what our experience really is in all its naked isness. Wonder helps the phenomenologist get to the ground from which our pre-reflective experience of lived life springs.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. Phenomenology is closely related to existentialism, a school of philosophy known for its atheistic thinkers (not all, but most of the biggies.) The spiritual traditions of the world deal in wonder. To “see the world as God sees it,” to use a Christian phrase, or to strip away all unconditioned thought, to use a Zen Buddhist phrase, or to live in the Dao, these are all spiritual language for a sense of wonder at the sheer naked isness of things.

And what phenomenology and the spiritual traditions both agree on is that this is the REAL reality—not the interpreted, agendafied ways we spin our experiences for social reasons. For the phenomenologist meaning emerges in the relationship between the subject and the pre-reflective experience of things. For the mystic it is to touch the face of the eternal. Maybe these are, in a way, sides to the same coin—and wonder marks the edges of the path.

Even the atheist is led into the mystery at the core of existence. What a wonder!

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People on the Move

World leaders came together at the United Nations Sept. 19 to adopt the New York Declaration, a document that commits countries around the world to protect the rights of refugees and migrants and to share the responsibility for the record number of people on the move. So reads a release from September 19th of the Episcopal News Service. (http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/09/19/world-leaders-adopt-a-global-migration-compact/) Another excerpt: All 193 U.N. member states reached consensus on the declaration to develop by 2018 a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration; ensure a more equitable sharing of responsibility for hosting and supporting the world’s refugees; to commit to protect the human rights of all refugees and migrants regardless of their status; and to commit to launching a global campaign to counter xenophobia…
Of the 21.3 million refugees in the world today, 1 percent might be resettled. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 1.19 million refugees will need to be resettled in 2017. On Tuesday, Sept. 20, President Barack Obama will co-host a Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, alongside Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, Mexico and Sweden. The leaders’ summit will appeal to governments to pledge increased commitments to resettle refugees.

I’m really glad that 300 years ago when my first ancestors came here from Europe the INS was not there demanding a visa, work permit or border crossing card and threatening to throw them back into the hold of the clipper that brought them over if they didn’t. Now, however, it seems that we feel entitled to this land we forcefully occupied, and that we have license to be afraid of those who would join us. So quickly we forget!

If there really is any will to comply with this then we need to restructure the INS. If not, what kind of hypocrisy flows through the pen of our highest elected official to sign the document? Jesus said, “Let your yay be yay and your nay be nay. Anything else comes of the evil one.” Just sayin’………

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Colin’s Conundrum

“Since the start of the NFL preseason, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has chosen to sit or kneel during the playing of the national anthem. ‘I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,’ Kaepernick told NFL Media in August. ‘To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.'” So says Yahoo News, that also reports that model Kate Upton has taken him to task about it, entering a nation-wide debate. So here is my contribution.

Between the real and the ideal there is always a gap, otherwise the ideal would not be an ideal, it would be the real. The ideal stands out ahead of us, the carrot that lures us into ever-new and (we hope) ever more faithful expressions of the ideal, but like the horizon, we never really get there. The National Anthem is a statement of an ideal. Francis Scott Key penned the words after witnessing the unsuccessful attack by the British on Fort Henry. He watched the battle from the deck of a British warship where he had gone to negotiate the release of his friend, Dr. William Beanes. He was successful in gaining his friend’s release, but was forced to stay onboard during the bombardment. The well-known image of the tattered flag flying proudly above the fort captures in the American imagination the spirit of freedom that inspired the Revolution in the first place, and in 1931 it became officially our National Anthem. The song describes not what we are, but rather calls us toward who we hope to be.

Kaepernick’s protest seeks to bring attention to the gap that persists between the real and the ideal. There certainly is a gap, and it stands as a great weight on social conscience. The nation the hymn idealizes holds liberty and justice to be the highest virtues, and there are still citizens for which this is not the case. The song talks about heaven and Kaepernick is showing us earth. I applaud his cause, especially when he refers to all “people of color.” Ideally, all of us have a color of some sort. Really, for some the color counts one way and for others it counts another. However, if the final word of our Pledge of Allegiance means what it says there is no distinction to be made on the basis of color of skin, age, gender, land of origin, sexual orientation or religious affiliation. Period!

Is it right for him to make that statement when and how he did? Apparently for him the gap is more compelling than the ideal. It’s easy to call him a pessimist, but when his actions start selling his jerseys like hotcakes and the debate goes viral maybe there is something going on that we need to face. Too many black men are being shot by police. Too many brown people are being fast-tracked back to the misery of their homelands without due process. Too many gays are being pushed over the edge by anxious people.

My faith teaches me two things: All people are neighbors, and the way to be a good neighbor is the golden rule. If my ancestors came to this land seeking a better life, why are some turned back now? If my ancestors were free why are some not free now? If the ideal really means anything at all we must constantly press toward it and resist the seduction of the status quo.

I would not have done it that way, but now that Kaepernick has made the statement let’s take it to its purposeful end.

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Walls

To control illegal immigration into the UK across the English Channel a 4-meter high fence topped in razor wire is being erected along a kilometer of roadway to keep people from boarding semi cargo boxes bound for the UK. It is being constructed by the British government under a treaty with France that allows England to exercise control over their common border on the French side. Sentiments in France now want a post Brexit England to take responsibility on their own shores. This exacerbates the immigration crisis that is convulsing Europe. The jungle camp of people seeking to cross illegally has grown to 10,000 people outside Calais and there is pressure on the French government to shut it down.

I found this graphic on the internet at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2271455/Revealed-How-immigrants-America-sending-120-BILLION-struggling-families-home.html:

 

It shows the flow of money being sent by family members of immigrants. There are some omissions, to be sure. Money is being sent to many countries in Latin America and only Mexico is shown. However, it does reveal what many of these maps show. There are places in the world where people want to live and there are places where they do not want to live. Why would someone not want to live in their home country? The reasons are obvious. Efforts to suppress these same kinds of movements on the earth between peoples reveal an attachment to an economic advantage (understandable.) It sets up a predictable tension between the haves and the have-nots, and we know where that one goes in the end.

As a Christian and as a thinking person, what should my response be? My faith tells me that God moved from the “nice place to live” (heaven) to live among us in the “not-so-nice place” (our world) so that we could become friends, and that eventually the distance between heaven and earth would be overcome. Of all the good answers put forth I’m sure that walls are not one of them.

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Phenomenology

My wife and I just got back from camping. We took our dogs and a trailer up into the Black Range to the east of us and parked at a camping spot on the top of a ridge. We could look east up into the mountains and west out across the Mimbres Valley. We delighted to sunsets and smoky meals, and time with one another.

We did a lot of things. We took hikes with the dogs, we looked up wild flowers in our books, Karisse took a portable sewing machine and began working on a quilt, and I read a book on phenomenology. Phenomenology is a tradition of qualitative inquiry that seeks to get at the lived experience of a phenomenon. It’s all rather confusing and erudite, really, but it begs the question: What is the phenomenology of a camping experience with a loved one? We both agreed. Camping together makes us fall in love with one another all over again.

It makes me think of prayer. The life of prayer, if it is to be genuine, will always lead toward community, not away from it. Even solitary monks and nuns gather together for Sunday worship, and in their daily routines and disciplines the purpose is to clear out the clutter so as to make community with God.

Maybe I just spent the weekend in prayer.

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