Author Archives: watchingthespaces

About watchingthespaces

I like to watch the spaces between the things that other people see, the overflowing gaps and the chock-full emptiness.

Transitions

alotta gelato

In downtown Silver City, just a block from my office, is one of the highlights of the town.  Alotta Gelato is an Italian Icecream store that is a mainstay of our community.  Mitch Hellman and Star Belksy have run it for a number of years now.  It is a meeting place for people, sitting around the small tables eating wonderful cold treats.  When there are theater events in town (and this town has no less than 3 community theater groups) you can always buy a ticket at Alotta Gelato.  Their signature flavor is “Gila Conglomerate,” a mixture of lumps of chocolate, nuts, and who-knows-what-else.  Kids plead with their parents to go there!

And they are closing their doors in a little over 4 days.

(Yes, stunned silence is appropriate, and then a little prayer and a wonderment about where the world is going these days! And then the thought—wanna buy the place?  Mitch and Star will sell it to you, and if you can run it like they do, we’d all be grateful…

But these kinds of things happen, and in a small town like ours the closing of a place like this, or the last vestige of the Old Wild West, the Buffalo Bar, have a higher profile.  They remind us that life moves along, that changes happen, and that today’s scandal will probably be tomorrow’s commonplace, today’s heresy will be tomorrow’s gospel.

The relationship between the conservative (resisting change) and the progressive (encouraging change) is not whether one or the other is successful, but the tension between them that controls change.  Neither side should “win;” neither side should get everything they want.  Wise hearts need to have the voice and power to monitor the process of change so that the wisdom of the longest, widest and most compassionate perspective possible guides us.

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Arguments

Today’s Beetle Baily cartoon goes like this:

Sarge says to Beetle Baily, “Come with me, Beetle.”

“I can’t, I’m having an argument with my inner self,” replies the private.

“Well, stop arguing and come with me,” says, Sarge.

“I can’t quit.  My inner self has some real good points!”

Yep, and it always will.  In fact, it should have the best points.  Arguments with one’s inner self usually boil down to the ego vs. compassion.

The crux of the matter usually stems from the fact that compassion almost always requires that the ego relinquish control.  The ego will ALWAYS argue with that.  The ego’s role is self-defining, self-protecting, and self-esteem.  It is all self-oriented.  In and of itself it is good.  Compassion, on the other hand, requires a focus on the other, and the ego doesn’t do that.  It’s not its job.  That is the job of the altruistic part of us, the deep inner spirit that knows that ultimately divisions between people are sometimes useful, but ultimately immaterial.  If in the end the “self” that the ego must protect and identify is a self that gives itself away, what does the ego have to do but sit on the sidelines and watch?  Hence the argument.

Wisdom is known by the Spirit.

Note:  My use of the word “ego” is not in the technical Freudian sense, but in the popular sense of the locus of one’s sense of self and self-worth.

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Space Heads

Coming up soon, for a quarter of a million dollars you, too, can be an astronaut. Launching from Space Port America near the town of Truth or Consequences in the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico, you will be taken into space for…well, I’m not sure that we quite know yet. Maybe they’ll let you do a space walk. Maybe they’ll serve you space lattes and air cookies… (Maybe it’s evident that I don’t have a quarter of a million dollars to spend on space.)

It all sounds like a kooky really high-class entertainment until I found out that there are similar ports being built in Texas, Florida and Dubai. The center in Dubai wants to create similar ports in London, Moscow and other large world cities. They claim you can get from Dubai to London in 45 minutes. That’s expensive travel, but with what corporations pay their chief executives it might we money ahead to save 6 and a half hours of flight time. This is a quantum leap in human global travel. It sounds spacey, but maybe there could actually be something to it. After all, when the Wright brothers lifted off of Kitty Hawk beach in December of 1903, who could have anticipated the way air travel has revolutionized our lives? Was it spacey-headed or prophetic? Is this new advancement just a bunch of air-headed rich people, or will it someday be commonplace for us to use the dimensions of space to move quickly from place to place on our planet? (Wow, you could lap yourself with jet-lag!)

And who could have anticipated that a bunch of escaped Hebrew slaves would lay the foundations for three major world religions? Who could have told the first Christians that someday Christian thought would abolish legal slavery in the West?

But this is a little disingenuous. Knowledge moves forward incrementally. Steps are taken that lay the foundations for next steps. Insights and breakthroughs usually come on the heels of tireless worrying over the obvious to tease out the obscure. The knowledge of Ultimate Truth as well as temporal truths evolves, as each generation of thinkers and feelers stands on the shoulders of those who have gone before, seeing vistas invisible to previous generations, and making decisions that, when thrown up against decisions made several steps ago seem either magical, ludicrous or heretical—and yet there is a clear progression along the way.

Such is my stance on many things in the Church today. I owe hugely my predecessors on questions of immigration law, homosexuality, female leadership, contraception and the nature of Scripture. I don’t think I am being “untrue to Scripture,” I am seeking to do what Jesus did and contextualize the ancient truths based not just on ancient documents, but on all the wisdom and insights collected along the way from them to me.

Call me a space-head if you want…

Picture credit:
Space Port America webpage, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/virgin-voyage/new-mexicos-spaceport-america-takes-shape-middle-nowhere-n87166, accessed 5/13/15.

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Eyes

A young man and a woman were pulled out of the rubble in Nepal 5 days after the earthquake reduced much of Kathmandu to rubble. The boy thought he was hallucinating, not sure whether he was dead or alive.  He was carried away on a yellow stretcher normally used for the dead, but this time in victoery and celebration.

In our town the FBI, DEA and Homeland Security descended on the whole area in the culmination of a drug sting that netted the leaders of one of the largest distributors of Meth in the county.

My iris plants have one absolutely spectacular bloom on them right now.

Much to the chagrin of the media, there is good news in the world.  It’s just what you choose to look at.

What you choose to look at determines what you see.  What you see determines what you do. What you do determines tomorrow’s world.

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Running to and fro(m)

Police in Baltimore entered Freddie Grey’s drug-infested community.  He made eye contact with them and began to run away.  Police gave chase, and we know the rest of the story.  Freddie was also African American.  Race questions aside, the incident has raised a bunch of other legal questions.  Is it legal to run from the police?  Generally speaking it is.  You have the right to walk away, and you have the right to run away.  Police must have sufficient grounds for suspicion before they give chase.  However, as today’s paper said, the Supreme Court maintains a bit of a double standard. If the community in which one flees is known to be high-crime then the context enough is grounds for suspicion.  The race question re-enters the conversation at this point.  High-crime communities are more likely to be predominantly African-American.  One must ask why, and there are a lot of good answers to that.

There are bad answers.  Bad ones reflect assumptions that certain races are naturally more given to crime.  Other bad ones place all the blame on white supremacy that continues to keep people of color in oppressed poverty where a life of crime constitutes a desperate bid for survival.  Almost all bad answers are premature and simplistic, evidence that anxiety is the driving force to find an answer, rather than a pursuit of wisdom and truth.

The pursuit of wisdom and truth is not a running away, it’s a running toward things that often proves elusive.  To borrow a phrase from the Rev. Robert Capon, “hunting the divine fox” takes persistence, patience, and humility.  Wisdom and truth do not elude us because they want to escape, they elude us because we are so often inept hunters who miss the signs along the way.  The Way of Wisdom requires patience, persistence, and most of all humility to discern the signs and capture the fox.

What if the police officers had approached Mr. Grey with patience, persistence and humility?  What if Mr. Grey had responded to their approach with patience, persistence and humility?  What if the communities who are now so rife with unrest tried to slow down and see the situation through the lenses of patience, persistence and humility?

If we could do that the double standard might very well just evaporate.

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Heroes

I just blessed a bunch of heroes.  They are riding steeds of two wheels.  The only thing about them that costs more than their steeds is their health insurance premiums.  This morning they ride out of Silver City at 6000 ft., drop to 4500 ft. in Cliff, and then climb back up to 6600 ft, over almost 80 miles.  They ride out to do battle against themselves, challenged by the environment.  Like in all ordeals, the threat of danger is very real.  Last year a number were injured when someone fell on the road.  This is the kick-off for the Tour of the Gila Bike Race, and once again Deacon Sarah and I were out blessing the bikes.

We need heroes, people who are capable of giving expression to our ideals.  Heroes are born of ordeal, and they are no stranger to it.  It is not so much that I wish I had the body that can endure such a ride, as much as I yearn for the same kind of inner determination to push through the obstacles of life.  When life throws us up against that which is too big for us (and it always does) we are forced to reach for resources we didn’t know we had or were afraid to access.  The greatest heroes find resources outside themselves.  They accept the fact that no one can do it alone, and they reach out to their communities.

Perhaps the greatest ordeal is the path to humility.

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Heart

Someone told me yesterday that a smuggler of people had been apprehended and his “cargo” released.  Among those in his care was a 12 year old Honduran girl who was being held against her will.  Two explanations come to mind:  The smuggler is holding her for ransom, or the smuggler has “buyers” for young girls for the sex industry.

Yesterday the Senate passed a bill broadening legal powers to find and release people held in the sex industry against their will, and to castigate those who hold them.  A fund of millions of dollars is being set up to pay for medical and psychological help for those released.  And the vote was highly unusual for our Government.  It was unanimous.

That gives me hope that at least there are some corners of our world where unanimity for justice and compassion rises to the surface.  Maybe, just maybe, that kind of heart can now extend to those who are fleeing mortal violence their home countries against their will can get a just and compassionate response when they arrive on our shores.

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