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Gift

I began reading a book called Thomas Merton—Evil and Why We Suffer: From Purified Soul Theodicy to Zen. The author, David Oberson, explores the evolution of Merton’s view of good and evil throughout his adult life, framed, first, through a mystical and monastic Christian view and, then, a growing interest in Zen Buddhism towards the end of his life.

I have always been fascinated with Merton’s wide ranging relationships, nurtured through letter writing. Some I knew about from previous readings e.g., Thich Nhat Hanh, Dororthy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc. Today, I found another one of his relationships; this one with the poet Czeslaw Milosz who lived under Nazi and  Soviet oppressors in Poland before moving to the US. Merton and Milosz shared concerns about totaliarianism, scientism, racism, etc., which I can only imagine would be intensified in today’s global climate.

Milosz wrote a beautiful poem called Gift to remind me suffering that emerges from life is impermanent. In this poem, he reminds me their is always something beautiful and good, as he alludes to nature and creation that emerges to replace the suffering.

A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

I took this picture in BC about two years ago. As I walked on this morning, I reached a higher spot on the path and saw the lake in the distance fog covered. Like the fog, the suffering lifts with time and a warming sun. I let go of the envy, anger, grasping to be present when I work in the garden that is nature.

A Pearl from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

via A Pearl from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

David Herbert posted this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in April. Bonhoeffer was executed hours before the end of World War II by the Nazis who held him as a prisoner for about 1.5 years. He is a modern day martyr and opposed the Nazis fromt the time they came to power.

David’s quote is a wonderful insight into how God is not driven by human views, opinions, and ideologies. We each have free choice and will to live in proper ways and to treat the world we live in (we are not separate) with reverence.

Nature, including humans, are gifts given to preserve and conserve in their purest forms.

Daffodils, Lake, and Mountain in Glacier

Of all the pictures I post, this is my favourite. Kathy took the picture as she drove through Glacier National Park in Montana. With the flowers, grass, trees, lake, mountain, snow, clouds, and sky, there is so much of Nature’s in the picture.

Dr. Seuss

via Dr. Seuss

Heather offers three Dr. Seuss quotes. I am particularly taken by the third one, which calls on me to step with care and tact.

Regardless of where I am, I am with people, in the world, and in relationships. It is easy to take these for granted. Often, children and youth embrace differences more readily than adults.

Through the use of satire, made up words, and unusual characters, Theodor Geisel took a stand against bullies, hypocrites, and demagogues. I think his characters depict pluralism we live in. Yes, there is no Lorax, Yertle the Turtle, or Cat in the Hat, but we can appreciate and defer to the beauty of their differences. Even within  differences, I find more similarities and common ground with others.

We need this in the world we co-inhabit with other beings, sentient and non-sentient. Too often, people who masquerade as leaders tell us to see difference as problematic, to see Nature as something to exploit, and to separate ourselves from our better angels. Perhaps our better angels are Thing 1 and Thing 2.

298x322 Unique Dr Seuss Images Ideas Dr Seuss Art, Dr

I retrieved this image from Clip Art Mag.

Relative Sanity, Walls and Thomas Merton

via Relative Sanity, Walls and Thomas Merton

Bruce shared insights into how community is formed. He did this through the words of Thomas Merton.

I loved the first two words of the title of this post: relative sanity. Parker Palmer reminds me to be in relationship with others and the world I live in is always relative, but not relative where amoral is the norm.

It is relative based as it binds through common humanity we share with each other. We are related to and relate to each other. Cornel West suggests we are  brothers and sisters  in a genealogical line going back to times we do not remember, yet provides  memory.

Thomas Merton suggests when we fall in love, we are vulnerable and risk being hurt. Living in community comes with vulnerability and risk, as well.

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I took this picture several years ago and the waterfalls remind me of how the river has a memory of where it came from and. at the same time, it carves a new path forward. In carving its new path, it does so in concert with the rest of the world it flows through.

Gallery Hop – I, Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100 Mural Series

via Gallery Hop – I, Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100 Mural Series

This post is a bit longer than ones I usually press, but it brought back memories of teaching.

I taught Language Arts and, as a result, poetry. I was drawn to Langston Hughes who was critical in the Harlem Renaissance, although he was not originally from New York. He was from Joplin, Missouri, found his way to Harlem, and added a wonderful voice through poetry to the Renaissance.

One of the murals in the post is of Richard Pryor who would have begun his career in the latter stages of Langston Hughes’ life. I did not think of it that way until today as I looked at the post and realized there was an overlap in their careers.

Like Hughes, Pryor was not born in New York, but moved there from Illinois. I watched Pryor on the Ed Sullivan Show in the late 1960’s, enjoying his humour and social critique.

I leave you with a Langston Hughes poem: Dreams. I shared this one with my students each year, reminding them to have dreams and chase those dreams.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

 

The Prayer of St. Francis

Today, is our anniversary. We recited the Prayer of St. Francis at our wedding and have it displayed on a small and simple plaque. It reminds me of what it means to be human, in relationship with another person, and in relationship with God.

When I was in Spokane, I printed a copy and put it on the wall of the small room I stayed in. I refer to the room as my monastic cell and the Prayer of St. Francis seems a fitting complement to any monastic cell.

During challenging moments, I recite parts of the prayer to bring me peace and be present in the world.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

The picture is one I took several years ago of Kathy standing above a set of waterfalls close to the headwaters of the Fraser River.

Take Sides

Source: Take Sides

The link is to a quote by Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner. He is not referring to taking sides over a game. Instead, he speaks to taking sides when we witness wrong-doing and immoral acts. His book Night is a worthwhile reading.

I remind other Christians Jesus reached out to those who were most in need, living on the margins of society. He ate with sinners and tax collectors and stood up against the Pharisees and scribes (Luke 15:1–4) and (Romans 3:23).

We each have to decide what we is immoral and moral. It is not upholding abstract laws and rules, but the spirit of doing what is proper. I did not use the word right or correct . When I do, I fall into a trap of checking a binary box of right or wrong. Instead, I ask “is this proper?” In French, this is a matter of comportment and conduct.

I think the last sentence in the quote are important, worthwhile repeating. It is worth spending time whiling and linger over the words and the depth of their meaning, from a person who suffered and witnessed unthinkable human tragedy perpretrated by other people. “Whereever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.”

I am not a big believer in thinking about my legacy, whatever that might be, but I want to be remembered as someone who stood up and spoke out against the wrong done to other people.

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