Wednesday, 27 October 2010
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
~ Rumi ~
(The Essential Rumi, translations by Coleman Barks)
Monday, 14 June 2010
Not much to show for it - a few creative and personal development retreats, a fab family getaway to San Francisco by train, a whole lot of committee and other volunteer work and of course, the usual kid run-around and achievements.
My son spent a few months meeting with his congregational counterparts - all 8th graders - for their Coming of Age prep classes. The annual Coming of Age service at our church was held early-May. In prep for this service, in which all of the 8th graders plan the "sermon", the music and the readings, each 8th grader must write and deliver their own credo or personal belief statement which may or may not be traditionally spiritual. Holy Son was pretty secretive about his credo right up until the day before the service, as he wanted to surprise me. (Plus he didn't want his English Minor mother correcting his dangling modifiers). The sum total I was able to gleen from his speech was when he blurted out some words during his final edit the night before and asked me to be his live and interactive thesaurus.
Suffice to say, I was blown away by his credo. Up until that point, we hadn't spent a ton of time waxing poetic about his religiosity, despite the fact that I was a religious studies major for much of his childhood. The extent of his "churching" has consisted of only 5 years as a Unitarian Universalist - exploring what that looks like to believe what feels right within. This is, of course, a far cry from the evangelical leanings of his grandparents, who are newfound and rather devout Pentacostals.
So I was a bit nervous that he might stand up and profess that he believes we all come from aliens. Not that there's anything wrong with that - in all likelihood, we do - how else to explain the long-running success of Mork and Mindy, after all? But as it turns out, he chose to speak of a few of the UU principles, which are statements of belief, if I may purport to speak for the whole, that UU's choose to affirm and live out. He spoke of love, compassion, originality and music - a gutsy proposition for a 13-year old boy - and linked how meaningful each of these are in life relative to the 2nd, 3rd and 7th Principles. And then he ended with one of my favorite quotes - which really did tie it all together rather nicely. He quoted Rumi with:
Indeed there are. And he practiced one form that day wherein he and a couple of the girls from Coming of Age decided to form a trio and play Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. Holy Son is featured as the cellist - check out the video clip link - it's a fine rendition, especially considering that the three of them practiced together only twice and never for a complete run-through.
Truth be told, I'm kinda jealous about this whole rite of passage thing. Not that there's anything stopping me from writing my own credo but having the opportunity to explore my life journey and faith and beliefs in covenant with other midlifers - it sounds divine. Clearly, I may need to create such a group. Each of the teens works with an adult mentor and many of the mentors express how rich and meaningful the journey was for them, as well - some admit they felt they were experiencing a Coming of Age far more profound than those of the teens.
And in a sense, they were. Bill Plotkin and others in the rite of passage world address and guide people through these various stages from childhood to adolescence to adulthood and finally, into elderhood. The grandest litmus test for most of us is to consider what our own major life passages have looked like and the degree to which they were healthy transitions for us. And yet, it is never too late to reclaim those memories and create ritual around honoring that pivotal life passage, even if does seem to be decades "too late."
I recently came back from a UU retreat, in which we explored this very topic and work. We worked wtih Bill Plotkin's 8-stage soulcentric wheel, which is showcased in his book, Nature and the Human Soul and we considered what healthy and not-so-healthy transitions look like in our society.
Case in point: ask any kid what signs and indicators are there for them to know they've come of age and they'll glibly share it was the moment they were allowed to get a cell phone. Or for Jewish kids, it is often the bragging right of how lavish a party their parents were able to throw for them. Similarly, a teen will likely speak to a frosh moment or a driver's licence or a drinking fest. The midlifer rites in our society aren't any better. Often, you can spot the midlife transition by the crisis rather than the healthy rituals. Affairs and sports cars most often accompany these critical points on the midlife timeline. And naturally, elderhood fairs no better. Elderhood in Western society, rather than being considered an honorable status, is marked by retirement from work and the freedom to engage in frivolous activities (bowling, golfing, RV park antics). Elders are cast aside to the peripheral instead of being called upon to be our greatest wisdom teachers.
Such is the fracture and fragment of our modern egocentric world, in which commercial rules supreme and the soul be damned. Which is why we might begin to see why the road to wholeness is paved with so much mental illness.
OK, off my soapbox. We all know the drill.
So Holy Son will be culiminating his spring Coming of Age experience with a trip in the wilderness this summer with Rite of Passage Journeys. This clip encapsulates much of what the journey means to the participants, both pre and post.
It will be mandatory fun for Holy Son but he's looking forward to it. The expedition will be three weeks in length and will follow a proper anthropological model of seperation, liminality and return. It encompasses various indigenous practices including a solo wilderness quest and fast, a sweat lodge experience, drumming, mask-making, performative ritual drama and yes, the hero's journey ordeal of overcoming the physical challenges that nature likes to throw our way (steep hikes and inclement weather). During this time, we will have no contact with him - it's that liminality and severance thing which is arguably the most critical aspect of healthy individuation.
Should we all be so lucky as to get and/or willingly give ourselves a three-week break from life, the universe and everything.
True confession time - I'm taking one week in August - it will be a 5 day respite to the same neck of the woods Holy Son begins his journey a month earlier. I'm looking forward to some solitude, some writing, hiking and time spent connecting with nature. And just being. Nothing to do and no place be be except in the here and the now. Or rather, in the there and then.
Just 54 more sleeps....but who's counting?
What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside of yourself and meet no one for hours -- that is what you must be able to attain.
Monday, 7 June 2010
Is it waiting
Thursday, 22 April 2010
Let us thank the Earth
The wonder of a garden
The kindness of the Earth,
That we may awaken,
Saturday, 17 October 2009
CHARTER FOR COMPASSION TRAILER from TED Prize on Vimeo.
On November 12th, I pledge to join the conversation and engage my RE class of 4th graders as we deviate from our World Religions unit on Judaism to discuss the Golden Rule and how compassion lives universally. Where better than in the heart of the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18) to begin this dialogue on compassion and indeed, The Great Commandment?
If you are not familiar with the Charter for Compassion, or for that matter are not up on the great work of history of religions scholar Karen Armstrong, then run to your nearest bookstore or library and pick up any number of her great, accessible reads, beginning with Through the Narrow Gate to more recently, The Case for God. She has received a fair amount of press as a recent TED 2008 prizewinner for her work in calling for a Judao-Christian-Muslim interfaith call to arms of sorts - with the Golden Rule as the central tenet that would find a first and foremost place in the religious practice of adherents of these and other world faith traditions.
You can view her TED talk here, and see a sample of the Unitarian Universalist religious education curriculum available for RE leaders here.
How will YOU join the conversation?
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
I lend my happiness into the pool of millions of others in this nation and around the world who sat back and clapped and cheered and cried and stood in witness to this historic event.
Holy Daughter and Holy Son were so happy, they ran out onto the cul de sac, shouting Go Obama! Yah, Obama! We live in a mostly Democrat neighborhood on a mostly Democrat street but the great irony is that we weren't able to vote.
So on behalf of this green cards-in-waiting family, thank you thank you to all who voted, any many for the first time.
As a UU, it means a lot to know that we'll have a President in the White House who gets issues of inequality and social justice. Who sees beyond the blue and red and supposedly-divisive colors on the U.S. ma. More to the point, who sees beyond the U.S. map, period.
I am ecstatic, as any Canadian in the U.S. would be, to know that change is immiment in January. I've been staring at my neighbor's Impeach Bush window sign for more than a year and I can't help but wonder, as I saw it again this morning, what the reaction in the White House was. Blink and miss the news - I had to go searching for it. Apparently, President Bush passed election day quietly. As he has much of this term as President, as well. He gave a public statement this morning that was magnamious in spirit. It will be an interesting time ahead to see how he rides off into the Texas sunset as the most unpopular President recent history has ever known.
But I so can't wait to see Barack, Michelle, their daughters and their new puppy cross the threshold into The White House. It really will be the dawn of a new era in U.S. politics. I don't envy him the work and challenges ahead of him. I worry for his safety but I wish him godspeed and every success. He's campaigned hard yet made it all seem effortless. For this alone, he should be applauded.
Happier days are here on the horizon, if only because the psyche in the nation has lightened.
God bless America.
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Today, on E-Day, D-Day, V-Day or B-Day - a label which changes invariably depending on one's slant - I shall revisit that feeling. It's a similar one, minus the shock. I feel emotional yet guilty for feeling as though I own such a personal stake in all this. I feel helpless if more than a little fearful but most especially, I feel far and away removed from this election process, just as I felt miles apart and worlds away on 9/11 from Ground Zero.
And yet, then as now, I am amazed at the epic show of patriotism that continues to sweep this nation, despite disastrous evidence to the contrary from the powers or lack thereof that be. Everything this country purports to stand for, including its symbol, its tattered and torn flag ~ which has been veritably dragged through international mud these past two administrations ~ has been tried and tested. But still Americans rally God Bless America without missing a beat, and I confess: I stand on the edge of the crowd with a baffled if bemused and respectful look on my face. God really does bless America with a patriotic pride unmatched elsewhere. It's incredible really. History books will surely pay testament to this sentiment, how ever misguided it might seem to us foreigners at the best and worst of times.
Equally incredible is that this epic campaign ~ which is assuredly the longest, most expensive, painful and drawn-out affair I have ever bore witness to (said the outsider on the inside with her nose pressed against the window looking out whilst viewing her reflection from within) ~ is that it entailed little mud-slinging of GWB, and nowhere in this process was there ever a battle cry for impeachment or electoral college reform. That, to me, is seems like a rather grand hoodwink. So much money pissed down the promotional drain, and for what? Pomp and circumstance.
It's been that kinda year of feeling betwixt and between. We weren't able to vote in the Canadian federal election this year, on account of being ex-pats. Nor are we able to vote in the U.S. federal election, on account of being aliens. A legal tax-paying kind, mind you, but an alien and an immigrant and a foreigner nonetheless.
So we stand on that patch of soil between two countries, singing This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land with equal conviction in both languages and accents - Canadian and American - yet unable to really stand up, be counted and assert our say.
Early indicators point to an Obama Victory. I'd like to hang my hat on that hook, really I would, but I was quite sure Gore had won in 2000. And, of course, he did ~ in more ways than one. Pathetic Presidency or Prized Pulitzer - there's really no contest, is there?
I can't believe Republicans dare to still rally around their dysfunctional political party and have the audacity to believe this country needs yet a third term fear-based ideology, domestic neglect, corporate nepotism, lobbyist greed, and war-mongering. It astounds me. If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always got. I remember thinking that exact thing when Bush got elected in. People politely watched Fahrenheit 9/11 in the penultimate days to the 2004 election, and yet still, they voted him back in. It would seem America got what it deserved, or so thoughteth this cynical and disillusioned Canadian, back in the day circa November 2004.
But then a curious if ironic thing happened a few short months later in the spring of 2005. We decided to up and move to the UnUnited States of America. And I began to have a different take altogether and a sudden vested interest in American politics. Funny that, eh?
Well, not really. My disillusionment and mistrust of Americanthink has not dissipated. I see the map below and I'm astounded to see how red it is. And not just in red states. I encountered two serious Sarah Palin costume-clad gals on Friday who saw their costume not as mockery but as starstruck tribute. They like her, they really do!
And so, I can't help but feel apprehensive today. I want to believe but maybe all this decade of doom, gloom and fear is beginning to rub off on me, too.
I mentioned to Holy Hub last night that perhaps Obama's grandmother passing away on the eve of the election was a good thing. Maybe she's heading to heaven to sway the Big Kahuna. To which Holy Hub responded, "Yeah, well what if God is a Republican?"
It was a horrible seed of a thought to plant in my brain just before nodding off. I slept with one eye open all night because when push comes to shove comes to hightailing out of Dodge, I'd hate to be part of the exodus alluded to below so soon after pulling up temporal roots here.
From the MANITOBA HERALD, Canada:
The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada
has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased
patrols to stop the illegal immigration.
The possibility of a McCain/Palin election is prompting the exodus
among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to
hunt, pray, and agree with Bill O'Reilly.
Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of
sociology professors, animal rights activists and Unitarians
crossing their fields at night.
'I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a
Hollywood producer huddled in the barn,' said
Greenfield, whose acreage borders
The producer was cold, exhausted, an d hungry. 'He asked me if I
could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I
didn't have any, he left. Didn't even get a chance to show him my
In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Mr. Greenfield erected higher
fences, but the lib erals scaled them. So he tried installing
speakers that blare Rush Limbaugh across the fields. 'Not real
effective,' he said. 'The liberals still got through, and Rush
annoyed the cows so much they wouldn't give milk.'
Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet
liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station
wagons, drive them across the border and leave them to fend for
themselves. 'A lot of these people are not prepared for rugged
without a drop of drinking water. They did have a nice little
When liberals are caught, they're sent back across the border,
often wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives.
Rumors have been circulating about the McCain administration
establishing re-education camps in which liberals will be forced to
shoot wolves from airplanes, deny e volution, and act out drills
preparing them for the Rapture.
In recent days, liberals have turned to sometimes ingenious ways of
crossing the border. Some have taken to posing as senior citizens
on bus trips to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs. After
catching a half-dozen young vegans disguised in powdered wigs,
Canadian immigration authorities began stopping busses and quizzing
the supposed senior-citizen passengers on Perry Como and Rosemary
Clooney hits to prove they were aliv e in the '50's. 'If they can't
identify the accordion player on 'The Lawrence Welk Show,' we get
suspicious about their age,' an official said.
Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are
creating an organic broccoli shortage and renting all the good
Susan Sarandon movies. 'I feel sorry for American liberals, but the
Canadian economy just can't support them,' an
'How many art-history English majors does one country need?'
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Summer had a way of seducing me into that comfortably numb place of apathy about all things religion and politics. Life is short, so is summer – why sweat the big stuff? Or is it small stuff? I can’t rightly discern anymore.
I no longer know what I know for sure, so snafu are the times. All I know is that by the time the Democratic Convention rolled around, I was more than ready to escape out of Dodge to Orcas Island, which is hours from mainland and miles apart in liberal aesthetics. Islanders have life figured out. I gotta get me some of that living one fine day.
Unfortunately, returning home entailed being bombarded with the Republican National Convention in the mass media on a 24/7 basis. These conventions are fascinating on so many levels, not the least of which is that they are packed to the rafters with regular Joes and Josephines who I would presume, lead a relatively normal life somewhere else other than as sign holders and groupies at a political conference.
In Canada, our national political parties are lucky if they can elicit the interest of several hundred people, let alone tens of thousands, make that millions in the Neilson ratings, during their election year convention weekends. Such is one of our many attitudinal and altitudinal differences. Heck, our politicians call national elections less than two months out. How’s that for quick, painless and frugal campaigning? Sure, there’s the regular mud-slinging, although a politician’s religiosity is still considered relatively sacred ground and mostly irrelevant to the task at hand. But the line between public and private life is still blurred. In the course of the past week, no less than three NDP (progressive social democratic views on the left side of the spectrum) party candidates have resigned over allegations of pot smoking and public nudity.
Thank God for politicians – who else would we lampoon nationally?
But thank God for short elections, as well. Enduring three years of active campaigning, not to mention innuendos, mudslinging and bi-partisan slander at the expense of real world news – to say nothing of productive government reform or lack thereof in the interim years – it begins to weigh on the psyche like a dead, lead weight.Little wonder some of us begin to feel desperate for escape.
Or begin thinking mathematically. 43 days until the election. $1 billion in total campaign spending. Two+ years of active campaigning, if one adds to the equation Obama’s coming out party on Oprah and Audacity of Hope book launch in the fall of 2006.
A billion dollars. That’s a large chunk of change. That equates to the gross domestic product of India. That’s sick, and I don’t mean sick as in chill, cool, and far out. I mean sick as in demented and deranged and dysfunctional and decrepit.
Especially since these millions upon millions of dollars end up getting sucked into the media slot machine vortex so that Internet bells might ring and news junkies then salivate over the spat out and regurgitated remains that constitute soundbite belches and cliché-ridden sentence fragments on some obscure journalist’s blog.
Which is why it was laugh out loud funny to listen to Fox News’ outcry over the article of CBC "opinion column" pundit, Heather Mallick, with her rather colourful take on Sarah Palin a couple of weeks back. Fox apparently took offense at Mallick’s harsh critique of Palin as a white trash “type” with a porn actress look, “a permanently alarmed expression,” and “a voice that could peel the plastic seal off your new microwave.”
What blondie on Fox News was most incensed by, however, was not so much redneck and hick typecasting which proved “incendiary”~ it was that the CBC, as Canada’s publicly-funded broadcasting corporation, would not censor such free wheelin’ and egads! ~ misogynist speech about their new Alaskan husky bitch. How dare Canada have its own version of the first amendment?
It’s nothing if not humorous and more than a little sadly ironic, actually. Because at this point in my Fox News diatribe, I beg to question: isn’t this media indignation a little like the pot calling the kettle black?
As much as Fox News purports to be fair and balanced (and I’m a size 4 - when are clothing manufacturers going to get their labeling right?!), we all know it’s the embedded journalist cog in the Republican wheel of theocratic media feeds. The public gets it, but in this post-RSS age of MEdia syndication, we’re willing to tune out the offensive in favor of a more palatable and digestive news source. One that lets us sleep in salacious pleasure with our integrity each night. Not that Fox News doesn’t permit the same for so many. In true supply/demand fashion, a super-sized, zombaic graveyard of conservative Americans live, eat, breath, love it and stand in line for another heaping plate of it. Ratings and advertising demand proves this and indeed, so too, do the Republican advance polling numbers.
But the indignation did not stop there. Is that how Canadians really feel?, blondie went on to question, in what I’ll take to be a rhetorical tone, if only for the sake of my precarious footing on this rapidly-sinking American soil. The last time I can remember Canada being blanketed on such a wholesale basis was last December’s snowstorm. Suffice to say, it was equally as cold.
I get that she’s demanding an apology – apology is practically written into the polite and unassuming fabric of Canada. (C stands for cold; A is our apology for that; N is for northern backwater; A is another apology for that, too – we are very sorry; D is for drunkards; and A is our third apology – we are very, very sorry we have better beer than you do, America).
And heck, I feel downright compelled as an Americanadian to bow down in shame. It’s the typical Canadian response. Geewhilickers, Fox News, on behalf of all Canadians (because I’m magnamious like that – I’m sorry but it’s true - such that I would dare want to speak for all my fellow Canucks)… we’re so very sorry to have offended your Dominionist sensibilities. I mean what does that Heather Mallick know anyways? She said it herself ~ she out-hicks Palin on the small town front.
But unlike most Canadian news stories that enjoy less than two seconds of fame on American networks, the blasphemous stench from this one endures. Greta Van Susteren went on record to denounce Mallick as a pig, a comment that arguably posits Greta in the same pile of trough slop, journalistically speaking. Still others have been equally vocal. “Those morons up north just can’t keep their ignorant mouths shut when it’s really none of their socialist business…the People’s Republic of Canada is no friend of the USA,” rants one fellow, whom I would have to guess, has close familial ties to Levi Johnston. He makes a valid point though. Who are we Canucks to diss Americans? The unwritten rule within dysfunctional families hints that only family members can pick apart the system or lack thereof. Outsiders should mind their own business.
Indeed. North is north and south is south, and never the twain shall meet, especially when it comes to maters of patriotism, healthcare universalism, and hockey supremacy. As much as we straddle a common border, share a continent, speak the same language, and have similar consumerist tendencies, we are two wholly other worlds apart. We are like cheek-kissing cousins who oft get confused about whether to kiss left or right, how to turn the other cheek, or even when to bare the bottom ones.
Left, right, left, right, left. All is not fair in love, war and politics.
It would be easy to label Canada’s own bi-partisan angst a Democrat versus Republican one, but in fact, the integral differences between Canada’s two main political factions – the Conservative party and the Liberal Party. To suggest that the Conservatives are to Republicans as the Liberals are to Democrats is to make a gross error in generalization. The spectrum spread between the two is ever so slight as to render them both virtually centrist, give or take a degree or two in spectrum-speak. The Green Party and NDPs are the more socialist parties yet they only ever manage to garner a small portion of the left wing vote….too small to count, really. And I won’t even speak of the Bloc Quebecois Party except to mumble Sacriste Tabernacle under my breath and something else about merde that doesn’t necessitate repeating.
And so, to borrow a clichéic paragraph from standard journalism pages a moment, our systems are very much apples to oranges. Yet similarities persist. We have our out with the old, in with the new voting patterns, too. And often, what we find is that it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other – there often is no greener grass on either side of the so-called great political divide, to push the clichés to shove, if I may. Canadians are typecast for being just as bi-partisan when, in actual fact, most Canadians are equally chimerical in their wolf/sheep political views as Americans. It would be nice to think that most of us stand for only conservative values or only liberal issues, but the fact remains, most of us, aren’t that easy to pigeonhole.
Case in point, do the Republicans actually think Palin speaks to the feminist vote? I was pro-Hillary from a feminist perspective but not when it came to certain political issues. Palin, however, is the antithesis of female empowerment in this nation.
Holy Son confessed to his grandparents while visiting Alberta this summer, that if McCain won the election, we were moving back to Canada. The jury was still out on that one this past summer actually, but with Palin as the Republican ticket sidekick now, a green card re-assessment would definitely be in order.We can do little more, as betwixt and between citizens, than cross our fingers and trust that this time, Americans are sick and bloody tired of having their good name tarnished and sullied internationally. With war-fatigue at an all time high, the mortgage industry in ruin, national debt at a chart-topping level, and financial markets in near collapse, there has never been a more opportune time to take a chance on change and dare I suggest, begin to rebuild the empire at a grass-roots community level.
I know it’s audacious, but one can still hope.
Monday, 28 July 2008
But nevertheless, we appear to "stand for" liberalism and tolerance, and even shades of "affluence," if Mr. Adkisson's resentment of liberals taking jobs away from him is any indication. And this scares me ~ which is evil in and of itself because fear breeds hate and hate breeds division and division breeds othering.
Sunday, 22 June 2008
So now my local group has dwindled to just a couple of us ~ I attribute the attrition to the fact that it's free, that self-commitment is tough psychological work and that the structure lends itself to working from beginning to end. There are a few newbie members who lurk in the background, happy to associate themselves with the group but leary to come out and give it a try.
This week's chapter is the 7th in the 12 step series - Recovering a Sense of Connection. I have been pondering lately the connection between being left handed and tapping into right brain sensibilities, as it relates to connecting to spirit and higher creativity. And lo and behold, what should I stumble across but a recent comment on my neurotheology post a few months back, in which a keen viral marketer (perhaps the good doctor herself), exhuberantly spouted the wisdom and message of Jill Bolte Taylor's My Stroke of Insight memoir. You can hear her speak here on Ted.com.
Anyways, a couple of chapters back, we were encouraged to write our own Artist's Prayer. I wrote mine a month and half back - just before I fell off the artist's cart.
Here is mine in all its Wordle glory, glory, hallelujah.