Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Being Unhappy in a Happy Place

I first recall when someone I knew expressed feelings of Depression connected to Springtime and sunny days.  She explained to me that when Spring arrived and everyone around her got excited about the sunshine and the warmth, she felt worse.  She got really despondent because she wasn't able to enjoy what others were raving about.  And that fact made her feel worse in Spring and Summer.

Now the Fed has found something similar.  First, they've noticed that in societies where income is going up, people are happier.  No surprise there.  But they've also found that suicides go up in happier societies!  And they've concluded that those who are unable to share the happiness/well-being that others experience, with rising prosperity, get depressed and may end their lives - as all around them eat, drink, and are merry.  Except for them.

If only this "depression effect" - now recognized by the Fed would convince legislators and Tea Partiers that Health Care is vitally important, that some people simply can't pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, not if they're depressed.  And that a wealthy society (ours) owes them some assistance, so they can get a "leg up".  Or do they view the suicides as not really the human wastage one professor of mine would have called it?  Are they, sadly, happy if these others - unproductive citizens (as they might view them) - simply remove themselves from the face of the earth?

Gosh, this makes me sad....


But now for an uplifting experience.... and if this makes you sad, well... oh, dear... more unfortunate proof for the principle described above!  More need for Alan's ideas below.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"Children in Charge"

Don’t miss this column on what went into the House of Cards that got sold as bundles of mortgages, the collapse of which has led to so much economic pain for all the but the wealthy bankers who believe they are the “best and the brightest” – those doom-hawking hoodwinkers – whose toxic products have been gradually infecting every nook and cranny of our world financial and monetary networks.  It’s important to know their nefarious slights of hand, so we can protect ourselves from the coming attractions, as the money works its way ever deeper into the political system, thanks to the “inJustices” – those supremes so in love with the free market, that they are willing to sell out the Republic to the highest secret bidder in our current electoral advertising Hoodwinkery, which is simply another form of bundling toxicity as straw-spun “gold”.

There!  I hope that piques your interest!  Read it. Or don’t blame me if you didn’t see it coming….

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rent a friend?

Now I’ve heard everything!   Yes, you can rent a friend.

Commentary: Maybe people will think I am a snob, but honestly while I can chat with almost anyone, it isn’t every day that I run across someone with whom I can really talk, someone trustworthy, interesting, open-minded, empathetic, with a sense of curiosity, a sense of humor, a bit of wisdom.

Apparently some people need to impress others.  Impress with a rented stranger? Or they're lonely - and almost anyone will do.  This is very, very sad.

Just think, civilization has arrived at a point where fire protection is optional and "friendship" is a business transaction!

I recall during the years of bushco thinking, what else don't we know? Now I'm thinking, where is this all leading....???

Monday, October 4, 2010

Why I write

Cross posted from here.

I have these verses from Psalm 137 ringing in my head:
By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows* there
we hung up our harps.

3 For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
4 How could we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?

5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
6 Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy.
“On the willows there we hung up our harps.”  That’s the dry land. In metaphor.  Context of today’s world.  The desert ~ if you truly care.  Where somehow the “heart” often seems to be missing.  If you are an exile as I feel I am.  (I’m speaking metaphorically.)

If you pay attention to what’s going on the world, and keep your ethical principles tuned up, it is a painful lot you have chosen.

You could join those singing the tune of whoever pays the piper. Or you can join the mourners.  Keeping your spirits up by remembering you’re not alone, that even the psalmist knew your sorrow.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Movie hits generational nerve (updated)

I read reviews for restaurants I will never eat in, ballets I will never attend, movies I will never see.  You could wonder about the meaning of that.  So could I – being a shrink and all.  But that’s not the subject of this post.

I was reading this movie review.  For a movie I’m sure I’ll never see.  Well, ok, “never say never” and all that, but trust me, I see very few.  I might go and see that new one by Julie Taymore with Helen Mirren.  Because I admire both women.  But I digress.

I love the freedom of digressing in a blog…

Ok, back to the review.  Something tells me this movie has hit upon a huge fissure in our society.  Generational.  Ethical.  Here’s the quote from the review that piques my interest:
Many older people will watch the movie, which was No. 1 at the box office last weekend, and see a cautionary tale about a callous young man who betrays friends, partners and principles as he hacks his way to lucre and fame. But many in the generation who grew up in a world that Mr. Zuckerberg helped invent will applaud someone who saw his chance and seized it with both hands, mostly by placing them on the keyboard and coding something that no one else had.
Yup.  I’ll never see the movie but I am an “older people” and I totally identify with the description.  Made me wonder about Josh Marshall… I hate to say that, but it did.  Especially this part:
“When you talk to people afterward, it was as if they were seeing two different films,” said Scott Rudin, one of the producers. “The older audiences see Zuckerberg as a tragic figure who comes out of the film with less of himself than when he went in, while young people see him as completely enhanced, a rock star, who did what he needed to do to protect the thing that he had created.”
I know there’s not a huge overlap here.  But I think this speaks to a huge ethical gap in how some of us view integrity as a very high principle versus others (yes, I can see myself distancing from “them”) view success and fame and money as the objective and betraying people or principles as simply an unfortunate byproduct or worse,  simply inconsequential.

I have no solution.  It’s painful to be older and look at young people and see this happening.  I wonder if the financial downturn will change things at all or maybe make them worse (worse by my definition of course).

It’s amazing sometimes how you can stay at home and just read the reviews.  And there it all is – whether you experienced it personally or not.  But even so, you’re affected by it.  Well, at least I am:  Someone concerned about principles and people.  Someone never motivated much by fame or money or status or power.  Yes, I’m in the group that’s deeply bothered here.   And I’m guessing maybe Josh Marshall, perhaps even unbeknownst to himself, is in this other group.

Update: Here's Paul Krugman a day later.  Different topic but same problem:
Arguably, this shouldn’t be surprising. Modern American conservatism is, in large part, a movement shaped by billionaires and their bank accounts, and assured paychecks for the ideologically loyal are an important part of the system. Scientists willing to deny the existence of man-made climate change, economists willing to declare that tax cuts for the rich are essential to growth, strategic thinkers willing to provide rationales for wars of choice, lawyers willing to provide defenses of torture, all can count on support from a network of organizations that may seem independent on the surface but are largely financed by a handful of ultrawealthy families.
Money talks.  And we've shifted the money to those willing to buy people!  People for sale.  Public offices for sale.  You name it.  Sold to to the highest bidder!
Only if enough people are willing to do what's right - for low pay - can we dig ourselves out of this hole!   Doctors.  Lawyers.  Professors.  IT people.  Electricians.  You name it!

Critique:  So part of it is generational.  But mostly it's human nature.  Greed is the key!  (And whether your ethics gets in the way of your greed.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

“inadequate fingerprints”

This is a true story.  The names are changed to protect the innocent.  It’s a story about Homeland Security:  Your taxes at work to protect you from a 71 year old person who spends time working on a 14th century manuscript – which is poetry.

The said individual, let us call him IF (for “inadequate fingerprints”), has been in the US for nearly 44 peaceful years.  However, due to allegiance to this person’s own nation, IF has never taken the trouble to go through the US citizenship process – thus has no little US flag.  Nor big one either.

Homeland Security is in the Federal Building.  Downtown.  To reach there you must have an appointment.  These are sent by mail.  You are given a time and only unless you have a medical problem can you change the date and time.  Even if you have a medical problem, their phone system makes it nearly impossible to reach them or arrange anything whatsoever.

IF has a medical problem.  Just going through security would help them see that.  They know that already.  For this is the second time IF has been summoned for “biometric” processing.

You might not know this, but Green Cards used to last forever.  No longer! IF found this out the first time when arriving back in the US after a family visit in a foreign land which is not named to protect the innocent.  Upon arrival and the showing of the Green Card, which had always been sufficient until that moment, IF was told:  “This card has expired.”

But wait… Right there and then a new one was processed.  Right there in an Airport not to be named.  You know why.

So now Green Cards have an expiration date.  Less than 10 years apparently.  Now here’s the interesting thing.  There is apparently no law that says they must be updated.  It’s only if you leave the country that anyone would notice – apparently.

In any case, even though IF has a medical problem (which possibly might be helped by surgery, but which makes it very difficult to travel, let alone visit Homeland Security), still the determination had been made to apply for the new card “just in case”.   (The medical condition is not life threatening, but merely life-disruptive.)

The medical condition necessitates a lot of washing.  IF thinks of them as “ablutions” – perhaps it’s a way of distracting self from the reasons… which involve very private parts of the body.  And hands of course.

Now hands have fingers.  And fingers have finger prints.  They also have arthritis.

Now on the appointed date, at the appointed hour, IF appeared for the appointed “biometrics”.  One would hope that Homeland Security, which makes use of the most modern methods, would have machines to capture the pattern of an iris.  Or perhaps would take a swab of DNA. But no… fingerprints were wanted.

The modern fingerprint is made on a glass plate connected to a computer.  This writer personally has no idea if ink is involved at all anymore.  That’s because only the person with the letter ordering one to appear for an appointment can even enter Homeland Security.

A little detour to describe Homeland Security.  Many people work there.  Few people are called to show up.  The last time IF was there (ah, yes…”last time” – you can see where this is going…) there was only one other person with an appointment.  There were 3 security guards.  Guarding.  And a bevy of … well… I guess they’re bureaucrats.  Officials.  Maybe like in some Kafka novel.  Naturally the guards do a careful security check.

So there was IF.  Willing to give finger prints.  With hands that were swollen from so much washing….  The lady tried and tried!  Indeed, IF’s “significant other” (someone you would never suspect) wondered where IF was… since it had been hours and hours and no IF was returning from the Federal Building.  What had occurred in the Homeland Security interview?  Had they suspected IF’s involvement in the long ago protesting of a dictatorship in a foreign land?  Indeed, IF had been careful when the Patriot Act was passed, nervous that his significant other had chosen to protest this and that. (Living in a dictatorship had had its effect.)

Well, long story short… the female Homeland Security Official pushed so hard on the fingers for the fingerprints, that poor IF had to plead for her “not to push so hard” due to “I have arthritis in these fingers”.  To no avail…

Finally, after seeking assistance from a supervisor, the official was given leave to accept the “finger prints” and allow IF to go home with the swollen, painful fingers, following the stern warning that if there was any need after the application was processed further, the FBI would contact IF.  Hmmm…

This is the kind of individual your taxes are protecting you from!

Now comes the letter… NO, not from the FBI.  (not yet…)  Homeland Security had determined that the fingerprints were “inadequate” and new ones must be taken.  This time they would not be taken in the afternoon, a good time to find parking (perhaps) near the Federal Building.  But at 8 am.  Together with the warning that the time could not be changed “unless there is a medical reason” – came the stern warning:  If you do not show up for this appointment, your case will be closed.

Case would be closed… What would that mean? 

Mind you, a poor person could not apply for a new Green Card in this day and age.  It costs no less than $370!!!  Oh, yes…  Poverty and Green Card do not mix!

So, now what?  One would hope that if the fingerprints are inadequate, Homeland Security would consider that perhaps the methods or the means or the goal of fingerprints is inadequate.  And some other “biometrics” might be considered.  But apparently, in this day and age, when guards are paid to guard and officials to officiate, well…. the procedures must be followed!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My heart is broken (9/12/10)

It was on Saturday evening that I realized my heart was broken. Sounds like the first line of a novel.  It would be so easy to make this post fiction.  Instead of face the reality.  One so stark I’m not even sure as I write this where this post is going.

My heart is broken because there’s never going to be even the slightest inquiry into the “torture” – a depravity called by so many euphemisms, instead of its truthful name.  But even worse my heart is broken by the centuries and the thousands of centuries of equal inhumanity to man.  The punishment of so many innocents.  The going to war and justification of killing and torture and rape and pillage by so-called “virtues” as if using words could ever make this ok.  My heart is breaking, not just because of these particular tortures and wars, but also because I can look into myself and see the same potentials, the same anger, the same kinds of justifications within my own torn and divided heart.

My heart is broken because we’re never really going to get health care like we really need health care.   Health care for all – where the money goes for “care” and not for corporate welfare.  But even worse my broken heart cries out for the fact of ill health itself.  For sickness and disability and dying alone or unloved or on battlefields or other places of carnage, so different from medical settings where lives are valued to such extremes that the unwell are inflicted with “treatments” that make them suffer all the more.  It’s the pain of life leading to death and the path along that strewn with illness and suffering.  And the inability to ultimately alleviate these truths from my mind.

My heart is broken because national ideals and religious ideals are too often just words and pageantry.  Because greed is so rampant.  And because people have figured out ever better ways to disguise that and package products and ideals and sell them.  For riches.  For power.  And I can see those same pulls contending within my own heart – so I can’t cast stones or I’d have to cast them at myself.

I’m trying to rise above all this.  I think of the Buddha, raised in a comfortable palace, protected from all by enjoyment, ultimately shocked when he ventured out and saw sickness and death and suffering.  It wasn’t that he didn’t care to try and alleviate them.  But he saw them as the human condition and he set out to try and find release from the fears and the wishes that prompt our inner suffering, as well as from the negative feelings like anger or resentment or revenge which ravage the world around us when they are unleashed by you or me or those we oppose.  And then to save all beings through sharing  that realization.

Jesus was murdered for trying to get people to care about each other.  I think of him now as the Man of the Broken Heart, the Man of Sorrows so many have called him.  A man who died for Love.  And I take comfort in sharing that Broken Heart.

There’s a line from one of the psalms that says “a heart broken and crushed, oh, God you will not spurn.”  I guess I’ve arrived there.  Andre Louf calls that a place of true humility.  A place where you admit your total powerlessness.  Your brokenness.  Failed ideals.  Failed efforts to live up to them yourself.  A place where you look around at the rubble of what you’ve tried to do and failed to do.   How all of us fail.

So I’m not looking for sympathy.  I hope you understand that.  There are no words of comfort that have not been said before.  For the Man of Sorrows, the Man of the Broken Heart, even the Buddha, they’ve been there too.  And the psalmist, the psalmist has been there.  A condition of complete simplicity (Costing not less than everything) as TS Eliot describes it.  Followed by the comforting words of Julian of Norwich that “all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well” – but that is on a spiritual plane:  When the tongues of flame are infolded / Into the crowned knot of fire / And the fire and the rose are one. (whatever that means… it can’t be easy!)

Oh, yes, stilli… I know your sense of alienation…

A Melange (9/10/10)

In case you were wondering, yes I have a firm handshake! 

Thus, I shake your hand across the miles.  Firmly.  I grasp it.  It's good to have hands to grasp.  And it sometimes takes a crisis for us to realize how much we appreciate that.  How much a helping hand means when people feel stranded, or about to be, and suddenly a hand reaches out.

People trapped in earthquakes must really understand that.  That human hand that that appears to reassure.  Maybe with a bottle of water at a time when they might have felt all was lost.  You can see how carefully hands hold babies.  Not just when they're rescued.  But all the time.

A hand is the first thing we feel when we're born.  Never thought about it till now. 

Did you know that when medical students learn to dissect the human body, the last things they dissect are faces and hands?  Hands are that personal.

When you fall in love, you love to hold hands.  We use a hand to reach out, even to strangers, with a helping hand.  Interesting how we define it that way.  That the hand that helps stands for the help itself.

Hands are so personal.  If you see a photo of even one hand, you feel you've got a glimpse of a person.  When I was teaching young children, I was always reaching out to them.  I had this theory about education, that it all depends on forming relationships and that if you can connect with a child, that child will learn.  I never realized it till now, but maybe one of the most important things I did as a teacher was to reach out with a caring hand.  Whole new theory of education right here in this post....

LisB, I'm sure, could make all this into a lovely poem.  I might try - but it would take me a long time.  Stratofrog could also do interesting things with all these ideas here.  I wish she'd come and try....

I honestly didn't intend to write all this about hands.  Just the first sentence.  But that's what came.   (In high school I learned that if I could just get that first sentence, the rest would follow.)  I actually intended to tell you about the dishwasher, in case you were wondering:  The one that died 6 years ago.  The one Mr. TheraP has been "installing" for nearly 2 weeks now!  It's nearly installed...  ;)

Maybe you were wondering about other things.  Perhaps you can tell us about that in the comments. 
(And don't miss this wonderful tribute blog by Amike:  HANDsomely done, TheraP)

And it came to pass... (9/10/10)

Here is a sobering assessment of the state of our country, from a young person who responded to Frank Riches latest Times column,

Freedom’s Just Another Word.

Aside from recommending that you not miss Andrew Bacevich’s article in the New Republic (recommended by Rich), don’t miss Joe’s comment below (recommended by over 2500 readers!):
I am a 35 year old man who had an interesting set of perspective shifts from 2001-2002. I started 2001 a Republican; I ended 2002 a vocal anti- Bush anti-war Democrat. And now I’m not sure I even want to be an American anymore. I speak for many of my friends.
What changed from 2001-2002? A number of things: The blatant dishonesty and warmongering of the Bush administration over spy planes in China, the creepy giddiness of the administration over 9-11 and the rush to war, and the horribly wrong coverage of all of the above by our “liberal” media. One more fact: I lived in London from late September 2001 through the end of 2002. From there, I read reports about the IAEA and Scott Ritter, Hans Blix et al. over and over again saying there were no WMD in Iraq. When I got back to the US, it was like a fascist nightmare. Flags festooned everywhere, people literally calling you a traitor for opposing the war, etc.
Through all of this time — from all of the disgusting crimes of the Bush years now through the Dems’ despicable capitulation to corporations (Andrew Jackson’s nightmare) — I’ve wondered what I’m still doing in this country. I’m finishing an advanced degree at the University of Michigan and honestly I feel like leaving and never coming back. I’d like to live in a humane place where democracy still means something. I would miss the comfort of the familiar, friends and family, my sports teams…but little else. Our country is no longer a place I’m proud of. I could fight to make this place better, but that’s a life’s work, and honestly I’m not sure if this place isn’t beyond repair. Regardless of my education, I think I speak for many my age and younger.
How bitterly ironic that so many people — including our absolutely execrable media elite, save for a few of you at the Times and here and there — actually thought we were such champions of democracy, beating the drums of invasion.
We no longer live in a functioning democracy. That is not the grim pronouncement of a dour hippie (not that there’s anything wrong with that). That is a sober account of the state of America today, spelled out by a skilled guy with a future and a solid moral foundation, someone that should be encouraged by some credible accountable leadership to stay and help make this country better. Rahm Emanuel dropping F-bombs to liberals and the UAW, Larry Summers running economic policy and Harry Reid grabbing his ankles for the GOP: not change I can believe in. And no more dear to me is a country where multitudes descend on DC to listen to a Weimar Republic beer hall speech at the Lincoln Memorial, listen to a fork-tongued Jabba the Hut seething chaos over public airwaves on a daily basis, or vote for a lobotmized governor in Arizona or openly racist senator in Kentucky. Where a “liberal” president convenes secret meetings to dismantle the last shred of fairness in American society, Social Security.
Do I stay and do my tiny part to make it work? If I were an entrepreneur capitalist I might be tempted, but you know I’m actually like most people in this country: I just want meaningful work as part of a team that gives me a decent standard of living, something I’m far more likely to get in northern Europe, Australia, Singapore, Germany, or Canada than here. Utopia means “no place” — but there are places are far more congruent with my secular moral values, with highly regulated free markets, robust public services, democratic freedoms and a sense of shared sacrifice.
What does motivate me to work for change here, whatever small part, is the danger of an even more arrant and errant USA in the world than what we have now.
But regardless, the fact that I’m a skilled young person very seriously questioning whether to give up my citizenship should concern some principled leader. Our misbegotten tragedy in Iraq is where it all started, but it’s been all downhill from there.
My sad commentary is that I wish I were in a position to do the same.  Indeed, our son, born with 3 nationalities but living in the states, has recently activated his citizenship papers for the two other countries.  I also read that the brain drain is reversing itself - with people returning to places like India and Pakistan.  I worry that corporations are, in effect, controlling the levers of power throughout the world.  Corporations lack souls.  Something the young man above has in great abundance.  And a world with its soul sucked out is not a place where humanity flourishes.  Maybe that’s why I’m more focused on the “soul” these days. It’s like keeping a flame alive.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


When I began posting at TPM Cafe,  I had no idea it would at times become almost a full time job.  Had I realized that before starting, I might never have embarked.  Seeing these blogs, just the ones I've pulled to post here as a digest of the entire group, truly astounds me!

I have no idea if people will actually come back here to read.  But at the very least I have this for myself and for a public record.  A record not only of a time in our nation but of a time in which a group of strangers formed a community and learned from each other while having amazing discussions.

Peace to all who enter here.  The blogs were placed on a single day.  To find them you have only to check the archive to the right sidebar.  Click on the month of September.  And you'll see the entire list.  Nearly all the blogs now include the comments - after the jump.  (Many comments are from Lux - during Oct - Dec of 2008 - each blog title includes original date.)


Should you wish to find my other blogs, I will continue to maintain Nothingness (on blogger) as well as the two new blogs (on WordPress):  Casting Words to the Wind and Heart Streams in Dry Land.

PLEASE NOTE TABS above (under blog title).   Tab marked 9/9/10 contains blogs from the "last day" - before the lights went out.... (or so it was expected)

Sanctuary and Betrayal (4.28.10)

Part I

The Case for "Sanctuary" 

Sexual abuse by ordained and vowed religious?  What a contradiction in terms!  What a heinous misuse of power and spiritual authority!
We - the anguished and horrified bystanders to daily reports which grow ever worse - stand in sharp contrast to a Vatican hierarchy which is tap-dancing as fast as it can, trying to spin the crisis as perpetrated or enabled by anyone but them, the pope nonsensically urging laity to have absolute faith in priests, pinning his hopes on a revival of obedience to fussy old men dressed in red satin, with long trains, and people bowing to them like to idols.
(And let's  not forget the story going on within our own borders:  Seeking to question and arrest aliens, people whom the good book insists be offered hospitality.  Are we too a wealthy hierarchy, lording it over lowly peasants?)
You know the sordid story...  So what's gone missing?

Well, humility for one thing.  But let's think about care, compassion, concern for the least among us.  Let's consider the concept of sanctuary.  Not just as a place of refuge, but as a virtue, a call, a commitment.  Transcending belief or unbelief.  Threading its way through politics and religions and ethics and morality, it reminds me of a series of blogs I did on Erikson's stages of development.  Using these stages, sanctuary is necessary for a sense of basic trust.  Plus, sanctuary as a virtue is indicative of higher developmental stages, particularly Wisdom.  Using Maslow's hierarchy of needs, sanctuary (considered as physical safety and psychic security) is a basic need, essential for normal human life.  Thus, sanctuary must be provided for all people.

Therapy is about sanctuary.  Though I never noticed that till Bwakfat's brilliant insight (see Part II) left me pondering.  While I could easily make my case based upon the Old Testament or the New Testament, mostly I'm going to confine myself to describing a social good, a common endeavor, a ground to stand on in order to ensure the psychological and physical well-being of human persons, from birth to death, in every culture as well as in the natural world.

Sanctuary is what parents and schools and hospitals and social services, indeed anyone in the caring professions, is really engaged in.  Sanctuary is a place or process - for extending compassion and providing refuge.  It's a virtue or an ideal to strive for.  Even to fight for.  Perhaps to die for.  It's that important!

Without sanctuary, safety and trust are impossible.  Indeed, I think they have no meaning.  Without ensuring sanctuary, civic or religious trust breaks down, predators of all types are given free rein, and the small and weak and frail and elderly become nothing more than pawns, easily sacrificed to the gods of power and greed and appetite - to the twisted impulses of some who have clawed their way to positions of authority.

Sanctuary simply cannot work unless it is for all.  Leave one person or group out and you thereby violate its basic principle:  For denying safety, security, care, compassion to anyone leaves us all vulnerable to be preyed upon - maybe not now, but at some future date.

And lest you think I'm advocating that criminals get off "scott free" - not at all.  Indeed, I'd prefer prison reform too.  What great prisons we could have, if sanctuary for the human person, even the most hardened and vicious criminal, were the guiding principle.

Sanctuary for all.  If some of us were to go around Galilee (or your city) - like Jesus or maybe like the Buddha -   appealing to people's better natures, seeking to heal society, I suppose wes could do no worse than cry out:  Sanctuary is at hand!  Already in your very midst.  Come, all of you who feel burdened.  Learn compassion, seek and share sanctuary.  And you will find rest for your souls - your yearning for inner peace.  (Please be advised: I'm not arguing for a dogma of the soul here.  I'm just riffing off the bible and Buddhism.  So by "soul" I simply mean whatever you hold as deepest and truest, even most sacred - if you can go there - within all of us, each and every human person.) 

I'm appealing to this concept, because I think instinctively the entire world is troubled and horrified by what's been done and not done within the Roman Catholic Church.  I think "sanctuary" is an implicit yardstick we're all using - when we daily face the fact that this issue is not disappearing from the news and indeed is more like a snowball rolling downhill, gathering more and more snow - headed directly for the Vatican - its expensively-dressed men demanding obeisance and a status above the law - and for the sycophants and hypocrites in their entourage. 

As I've said previously, it's not that I'm full of unfocused rage and willy-nilly grabbed onto this issue - like  one of the rings they used to hold out on a merry-go-round.  No, this crisis landed in my lap - because I care.  And like so many in the whole world, catholic or not, I simply can't turn my back on the victims (past, present, and god-forbid future) of a perverted travesty claiming to be the divinely appointed heirs of a venerable spiritual tradition.  I can't turn away!  And until this whole putrid edifice is dismantled, I too am squarely on the cross - sharing the sufferings of victims and anyone they've branded untouchables - unable to get off!
We're all upset - wondering how to bring these clerical criminals to justice - people under the protection of a so-called state, who are trying to avoid the long arm of the law by providing "sanctuary" for their own - while abandoning victims and the rest of us to our suffering (as just collateral damage).
And I'm just counting all the ways.... 

Part II

Betrayal: The Concept of Sanctuary Perverted

I love it when somebody distills a tangled series of problems into one brilliant thoughtBwakfat did that for me.  And this post is an attempt to tease out her insight (below) - one, which I think crystallizes the Roman Catholic Church's current crises (sexual abuse, abuse of authority, failure of responsibility, betrayal of trust) into one powerful overarching image.  And beyond that, I want to consider how the church, using fuzzy logic, turns the essence of "sanctuary" inside-out.  Bwakfat's insight:
For me, the bigger issue is ... the concept of "sanctuary," the giving of protection ... It has a rich history in the church, and traditionally for the most noble of reasons. The church has kept safe people fleeing from political persecution and other injustices. That they must face the consequences of doing so, is a given, and one of the most powerful aspects of the concept of sanctuary.

What the Pope and others have done in this instance is to corrupt the concept of sanctuary, and endanger it. To me, this is unacceptable. It goes far beyond the heinous abuse of children. It's so wrong on so many levels, I have problems wrapping my mind around it.
Wrapping one's mind around it.  That is the subject of this blog.

I suspect Bwakfat is getting at the incredible hypocrisy going on.  First of all, what happens when a religion assumes the power of a state, even a tiny, so-called city-state?  Because inherent in Bwak's concern about sanctuary is a contradiction between a faith tradition calling itself "holy" as well as demanding all the rights, power, and privileges - but none of the responsibilities, I might add - of nation status.

Only one religion claims to be a nation - when it suits the pope.  And pretends it isn't - when it also suits.

Something tells me that when the Vatican began to view itself as both Holy City and nation-state it sold its soul.  It expected papal visits, for example, to be state visits.  It expected other nations to listen to its religious dogmas as if they were diplomatic messages, handed over from one head of state to another.

First a little background.

The pope resides in Vatican City.  It's a tiny area the size of a neighborhood.  With churches, museums, seminaries and residences for those who live and work there.  Whether this neighborhood constitutes a "state" or "quasi state" has never exactly been settled.  And the Vatican seems to operate according to fuzzy logic, shape-shifting according to needs of the Papal Palace at any given point.  Indeed,  one wonders if the Roman Catholic edifice isn't perched precariously upon the same fuzzy logic, the shifting sands of casuistry and dogma and self-protection that it deems an unchanging, infallible rock.  Inside this tiny enclave the Pope is a virtual Dictator or Monarch.  Though the Vatican exchanges ambassadors with most nations, it actually only holds an "observer seat" at the UN.   Nonetheless it claims diplomatic immunity and privileges.  Even asserts mystifying rights, for example the right to secret church tribunals in lieu of open courts, an exalted position above the law, and the right to meddle in the internal affairs of nations, by virtue of its claim to heavenly wisdom and the divine right of popes to expound on that. 

But let me skip over geography and history.  And go right to the matter at hand:  The pope is in the dock!  And the long arm of the law is creeping ever nearer to the Vatican, which claims the title of Holy City or Holy See, (tiny holy diocese).

And that brings us closer to the heart of the matter.

Let's consider a little parable.  A teaching story.  About Jesus.  Back in Jerusalem.  2000 years ago.
Jesus went to the Temple.  And threw the money-changers out!
He cried out, in a loud voice, that his Father's House was a House of Prayer.  That the Temple was a Sanctuary.
Not a place of business.  Not a museum.  Not a bank.  Not a fashion show.  Not a gift shop.  Not a seat at the UN.  Not a diplomatic site.  Not a palace.  Not a den of thieves.  Not a house of prostitution.  Not even a place of celibacy.  None of that!
The Temple was Holy.  A refuge of intense longing.  Of festal pilgrimage.  A place between time and eternity.  Lovingly described, over and over, in the Psalms as:  Presence of Holy Mystery
Of sacred rest.  Of peace.  Inner joy.  Beauty.  Deep contemplation.  Where the psalmist longed to spend "all the days of my life."  That kind of place.
Now this may be way more than Bwak was thinking.  But she gave me leave to ponder her words and their import.  And the more I think about this, the deeper my thoughts bore into the mire, the filthy stench of something rotting - a decay process - an institution, which has strayed far from its roots, far from the words of its anointed founder.  (Fact:  Christ means anointed)

And where are those roots today?  From acamus I think we find an answer:
One of the coolest people I ever met was [at] my first place when I moved out from my parents. My neighbor in this triplex was a nun who spent most of her time down in Central America. I was seventeen and was focused on partying and such, and I definitely didn't think anyone associated with an institutional church had anything to say to me that was worth listening to.

But one day I found myself talking with her out on the front steps. She told me about the work she was doing with the people down in the villages, dealing with things like clean water and government militias. I asked her why she did what she did. I can't remember what she said exactly, but she responded by saying in effect "it was the right thing to do. It is what my faith tells me I need to do."
And yet, contrary to sanctuary the Vatican is investigating and trying to intimidate these same nuns!  Women who clearly "get" the Good News, whose lives are witness to sanctuary.  Turning inside-out the very "faith" the faithful value and yearn for - as the psalmist yearned:  Lord, I love the beauty of your house; the place where your glory dwells.  And where is that place of glorious sanctuary today?  Surely not the Vatican!

The Vatican:  Place that gives abusers and their enablers sanctuary.  Preferring the love of power over the power of love.  Source of misbegotten shepherds, who have defiled and betrayed and perverted and corrupted a sacred trust - and have thereby destroyed sanctuary.

Yet there is reason for hope and I love this from evildoer:
Think of the pitchfork as you think of the cross.
The cross is the sign of an event, a transformation. That event was the resurrection...
The pitchfork is the sign of another event, an insurrection, the peasant revolt.
Between resurrection and insurrection there is the common ground of the event, the eruption of a new possibility which divides time into before and after. After the event one can be true to it by totalizing one's labor under its sign. The event makes life (spirit) possible to those who follow it, because it allows for the reconciliation of being and mind, which the life of submission (death) separates.
But of course, one can carry the pitchfork in vain just as one can carry the cross in vain. "by their fruits you shall know them."
This is where we are right now.  Stuck in the mud of this crisis.  Between resurrection and insurrection.  Standing on the ground of a new possibility. 

One Foot - Stuck in the Muck (4.25.10)

When I was a kid in the '50's - yes, I'm dating myself - all kids had real rubber boots for rainy days.  The kind of boots that fit over your shoes.  Boots that had to be strong enough to weather your walk to school - which, in our case, was a bit longer than a mile.  Catholics had to walk.  Public schoolers got bussed!

I remember one day, walking home, having to cross what seemed like a field of mud.  Probably it wasn't that big, but neither was I And one foot got stuck!  One boot rather.  I couldn't pull my foot out without also pulling the shoe.  But to do that would have meant having to put that foot - plus shoe - smack into the same mud.  So that was not a workable solution.  Not if I wanted to wear that shoe tomorrow. 

Plus, once one boot is stuck, it's so easy to get the other one stuck too.  Now, to be honest, I am truly not certain how this story ended.  I just recall the dilemma of being maybe 8 years old.  Learning what I'm just now telling you.  With one foot stuck in the muck, trying to pull it out, trying to figure out what to do.  I suspect I learned not to take a short-cut, not if it meant crossing a muddy field.  Cuz Catholics had to walk...

Or I thought I'd learned that.

But just yesterday I realized that even though I have "left" the Catholic Church with one foot, I am still stuck in Catholic Church muck with the trailing foot.  Thankfully, I didn't just leave - without first finding an island of sanity and spiritual sustenance (a church "for all people").  So at least I'm not stuck in mud with both feet!  Nevertheless the catholic muck seems to have such a hold over this one foot, like the boot like I had as a child (I think it was a red boot).  A boot which is very stuck.  Because there is just so much muck.

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person, who has left what we were taught in childhood was the Church - only to find that in this current crisis, which is shaking the RCC to its very foundations, a big ache in one's heart, a breaking heart really, for all the innocent victims, all the other good people who are collateral damage to a hierarchy more bent on self-protection than vigilance to protect the innocent.  The reason I'm pretty sure is that right here at TPM some people have admitted as much.  And many who profess no adherence to any church are suddenly admitting they are upset at what's going on in "their" church.  It actually reminds me of people I've known who don't believe in god - till they find themselves in a jam, needing to pray hard!  This situation is the opposite, of course, or maybe not.

Maybe the concern of people like myself, who no longer identify as catholic, for the church of their youth or their schooling, has to do with a genuine desire to see a wayward institution find its way home - to the values they were taught, values they still believe in.  Values they feel are too often missing in today's world.  Values they need to see in people - leaders, especially.

So if some wonder how come I'm stuck in the RC muck, it's not because I'm sitting at home full of personal rage - just looking for a target, and finding one, continuing to rage and rage.  It's because I know this institution, the Roman Catholic Church, is part of something larger and is failing to live up to its high calling.  And I'm just counting all the ways....


First Do No Harm (4.23.10)

This is a poetic, moving, simple story:  A parable.

A counterpoint to so much bad news:  Good News.  

A tenacious documentary film maker.  An unusual subject:  A former Cistercian monk, who has spent 50 years building a Cathedral - of his own design, by his own hands.   The story is told in simple, moving shots of the old man, walking through his creation. What a poignant testimony to the human heart and soul!

Watch this first
                                    Click on Video for larger version.

     The power of love and devotion.  Life's work of one man.  


Picnic Eternal (4.21.10)

Our mother loved picnics.  Especially all day picnics.  Her picnic basket was organized, her  picnics planned and executed without a hitch - we kids only aware of days of total freedom at the beach or park.  Picnics involved rising at the crack of dawn, early Mass if it was Sunday, ideally a stop for fresh-made donuts on the drive, and selecting the best spot before others even got up. 

Picnic days were rare times when dad cooked breakfast.  Outdoors.  While mom laid out the treats she had prepared.  Breakfast treats.  Lunch treats.  All-day-long - as much as you could eat - treats.  Days of heavenly indulgence and freedom:  Did they remind her of childhood camping trips, her parents' cabin by the lake?

How she loved picnics!  She must have prepared meticulously - for days.
Just as meticulous - those wonderful surprises we kids came to take for granted - creatively-wrapped gifts, amazing Birthday cakes, Easter baskets hidden in surprising places.  She didn't spoil us in general.  But picnics, holidays, birthdays:  How she loved surprises!  

Those were happy times.  And she had her sad times too.  But so much of what was difficult in her life has now been altered by the transformation of her dying.

When it came her time to die, it seemed she met that willingly, indeed at times impatiently.  She knew it long before it came.  And tried to tell us, was frustrated we seemed not to understand, frustrated too at her inability to formulate sentences, find words she longed to say.  Till the last.  When finally we knew.  When we could let her know it was OK to go.  When she could manage words like:  "dying... good."  She wanted to go home and earth no longer held her.

Yet she saved her best surprises for the last.

Those peaceful final days, when her eyes no longer opened and words no longer came, her Spirit bloomed:  Till we were touching - soul to soul.  Her earthly body, so like a birdcage, her Spirit - longing to fly free.

I was moved by that.  The transformation happening.  A woman never overtly religious, whose soul began to shine as she was dying.  Welcoming communion - saintly, even angelic - those last times.

She looked beautiful in death.

In dying, she had given me her soul.  Yet death held more:  In death, I felt her spirit.  Drawing me into that resurrection space - of her abiding:  An eternal picnic.  Communing with the saints.

And now we celebrate that:  Mother, we celebrate your birthday - not as we had wished, but as you surprised us.  May your picnic be eternal.

[Words prepared for her funeral - her 88th birthday:   4.21.2010]

Parable of the Good Follower (4.5.10)

To my mind the very existence of Father Tom Doyle and his ethical decision to "stand up" for victims of sexual abuse  (interview at link above), regardless of personal cost to himself, is like a powerful modern Parable - the kind which starts out: The Kingdom of Heaven is like... And this parable points out to us the difference between "following the Lord" (= ministering to the least among us) and "following the lordly" (= kowtowing to the high and mighty, who hold the reins of worldly power while terming it "canon law").

Papal sycophants are calling down fire and brimstone on those who question the pope. And our parable points out so clearly where the pope has gone wrong: He chose the path of the "lordly" rather than the path of the "Lord". For he was unwilling to confront the hierarchy when it came to caring for the least among us - the victims of abuse and the people in the pews. He kept silent in the face of Vatican friendliness to abusers. He distanced himself from decisions which failed to honor and protect victims. He claims he was outvoted and overruled. But he failed to speak up against that! And for that there is now a public outcry and public calls for his repentance and even his indictment as part of a cover-up. He failed to cry out on behalf of victims - when the real test came, the test that would have meant his own marginalization (right alongside the marginalization of victims and lay voices).

Put to the test, Benedict failed it. He kept quiet and sided with the code of secrecy of the Vatican hierarchy. This is his failing! This is why victims and good people of faith cry out now. And will continue to cry out!

Only the one willing to risk everything in following the Lord (as Fr. Doyle has), who "serves" as Jesus did, who does not count the cost but considers the poor, the needy, the suffering is helping to bring about the Kingdom of God. And Benedict has failed - failed to honor the Kingdom and failed to build it up. And he fails to see that!!! And thus fails to repent. Yes, he should go, for he stands in the way of the coming of the Kingdom.

(Be my guest, anyone who cares to lift these words and repeat them.)

Full Disclosure:  I have been awarded a pitchfork for this post!

Courtesy of Bwakfat.


Foot Washing: A timeless Parable (4.1.10)

On this Holy Thursday, when Christians everywhere recall the teachings of Jesus related to servant leadership, on a day when the RCC remains mired in scandal and crisis, I repost this modern version:

Bishops ~ Take a Lesson from Brother Pierre:

Brother Pierre is a true shepherd, someone I have known for 35 years, though we've rarely spoken.  I've always respected his contemplative silence, yet I feel I know him well enough to commend him to you as an example of how to be a good shepherd:

Brother Pierre is not ordained.  He's never given a sermon.  Unless you count the way he's lived his life.  So far as I know he has no shepherd's staff, no visible authority.  But you can learn all you need to know from the photo above and one more below. 

Look long and carefully at this photo.  Look at it like Sister Wendy looks at art:  Set aside your ego and allow the photo to speak with its own integrity to your innermost heart. 

Notice how he interacts with the sheep.  You can see he loves them.  He doesn't lord it over them.  He reaches out to gently hold the lamb.  He looks the sheep right in the eye - because he's kneeling down.  Among them.  You can see the adult sheep trusts him with her lamb.  You can see he's prepared to "feed her lamb".  The sheep listens attentively - for she trusts him.  And he speaks her language.  Like St. Francis.  His tone of voice and his Presence carry the message.

Like David, another shepherd before him, he also plays the harp and sings psalms.

I wish you could hear him play:  "Like the deer that yearns for running streams / So my heart yearns for you, my God."

Mount Savior Monastery saved my soul.  But right now you Bishops are breaking my heart:
You, who seem ever ready to excuse and hide the crimes of "your own" and all too eager to caste stones at the flock.   Instead of showing love and a place at the table, you have forfeited your moral authority.

You're trying to regain that.  But you're going about it in exactly the wrong way.  You're trying to impose your will on people - people who have every right to question that will - tarnished as it is by your flagrant hypocrisy over decades, even centuries, of covering up for predatory shepherds. 

Let me give you a piece of advice as a former teacher of young children and therapist who has worked with many victims of abuse:  You can only exercise authority if you first establish relationships of love.  Unless your flock sees the true face of love (what Paul called, "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ") you have lost them.  And once even children experience "discipline" lacking in love, they become traumatized, gun-shy, mistrustful - and you have lost them. 

You have lost your trustful flock just as surely as you have lost your moral authority.  And don't be fooled by the sycophants!

There is really only one way to regain trust and moral authority - IF that is still possible.  And that is the way of changing your own hearts and minds.  Changing your tune.  Changing your behavior, your tone of voice, your habit of looking down on people.  Learning instead, from Brother Pierre,  to kneel and look them in the eye.  One by one.  With compassion.  Seeking forgiveness.  Learning to serve and not be served.

Go out among the poor.  Go out barefoot and in rags.  Or make it sandals and one set of plain clothes.  Make it your task to listen.  To love each person you meet.  Recognize your common humanity with each, especially with each suffering soul.  Hear the suffering hidden in each heart.  See the yearning.  Don't preach.  Let your veneration for their suffering be your healing balm.  Your listening heart.  Look with eyes of compassion - devoid of judgment.  Forgive everyone you come across.  Without asking any questions.

And when you can do this - then and only then - might there be a hope of regaining the lost trust, the lost respect of those whom you have betrayed.  Failing that, all you have to offer will sound as empty platitudes, no more than a musical instrument completely out of tune.  Harsh.  Discordant.  Annoying.

Requiem (3.23.10)

She wasn't perfect.  And in many ways she had a hard life.  She grew up during the depression.  As a child she knew poverty.  She knew abuse then too.  She knew loneliness.  And she never meant anyone any harm, though in her insecurity she needed obedient, respectful, dutiful children.  She always tried to care about others.  And she taught us never to exclude anyone:  to share; to be kind and considerate; not to think we were better than others.  Bigotry was not part of her nature and she instilled that in us as well.  She did her best.  Trying to hide her own problems and put on a good front - as best she could - all the while her husband was often away on business trips.  We didn't see enough of our dad, but she tried to make up for that as best she could.

On their 66th anniversary (last month) she didn't comprehend the word "anniversary" or the reason for the tiny cake my father brought to the rehab unit.  She told him to take it with him when he left.  But he ate it.  Bit by bit.  Over 5 days.  Two pieces the first day (one for him, one for her).  And one on each on the following 4 days.  At nearly 93, he thought it was the best cheesecake he'd ever eaten. 

She went downhill quickly.  Falling and gashing her head at the end of January.  A week in the hospital.  A few weeks in a rehab center, where they tried to cure a bedsore from vegetating in front of the TV - as her mind had slowly lost its bearings.  It was Alzheimer's, but my dad simply could not bring himself to see what his children saw so clearly.  Not till after she fell, when it suddenly dawned on him:  "We've lost her." 

The rehab center was way too chaotic for a person descending into the last stages of Alzheimer's.  They were not set up to deal with such persons.  Only with persons on the way to getting well.  When she was on the way to death and dying. 

If only we'd known....

Not till the rehab center, finding her more than they could handle, transferred her to the best psych unit in town, did we get the diagnosis of Alzheimer's.  And one week later, the news that she was dying of it.  There they calmed her down - in a quiet room - with quiet, carpeted hallways.   Told us she needed nursing care.  Next thing we knew, it was hospice care she needed.

I cannot begin to tell you of the kindness and consideration and compassion we received in this last place - the home that nursed her into death.  She, as a resident, only for 6 days.  We as family.  They treated her like you'd treat a saint - if you knew a saint was dying.  I'm not kidding!  And they asked how we were doing too.  Brought us snacks and beverages.  Gave me sheets to spend the last two nights on a mattress on the floor next to her bed.  I got to see the good care, night and day, that she received. 

She was incoherent these last of her days.  Hardly spoke at the end, except to moan now and then - words we could not comprehend.  But she did clearly say things like "dying... good" and "I love" and "I love you" and  "I'm sorry" and "bye-bye" and it seemed that the last night she called my name and seemed to try and moan when she heard my voice.

I never thought it would hit me so hard.  Hearing that she was dying, as I drove home from a few days of retreat, a respite while my brother was in town.  I never thought I would see her turn into a saint, as her body slowly wasted and desiccated, as her mind lost its bearings, while her spirit grew and grew.  Till in the end I felt I was communicating soul to soul.

RIP.  Born:  4/21/22.  Died:  3/23/10

Addendum - via my brother, by Lord Byron:
My task is done -- my song hath ceased -- my theme
Has died into an echo; it is fit
The spell should break of this protracted dream.
The torch shall be extinguished which hath lit
My midnight lamp -- and what is writ, is writ --
Would it were worthier! but I am not now
That which I have been -- and my visions flit
Less palpably before me -- and the glow
Which in my spirit dwelt is fluttering, faint, and low.


A Lesson for us All (1.14.10)

"Beni Swa Leternel," they sang. "Blessed be the Lord."
Thus did the Haitian survivors cope during the night.  After the earthquake and devastation of all normal life.  Singing hymns.

Such is the human need to connect.  With each other.  With L'Eternel, the Eternal Mystery.  Such is the mystery of the human spirit:  They sought the Surpassing Comfort that transcends and inhabits the deepest grief, the greatest shock and horror, the Still Presence in the midst of near-total collapse.  The solidarity of singing.  Of strangers holding hands.   On a starry night.  In a city made rubble.  Blessed be the Lord, they sang:  Beni Swa L'Eternel. 

What a parable to learn from!


What a mess! (11.20.09)

The Catholic Church has gotten itself into such a jam!

I was initially going to call this post:  Wolves in Shepherd's Clothing.  As I intended to lay out a psychodynamic analysis of enforced celibacy within the Catholic Church.  But as I read and pondered and analyzed, I came to see a multitude of ethical, moral and yes, even spiritual dilemmas.  All because of enforced celibacy and the mixed-up muddle it's created around it.

Let me begin with a couple of metaphors which came to me:
Kafka's Metamorphosis - the story of a man who wakes up one morning as a cockroach.

The Emperor's New Clothes - the story of a deluded man who paraded naked, with only a child to speak up and question the received wisdom:  But he isn't wearing anything!
I hate to be the one to say it.  But I believe these two images are apt descriptions of some things happening - right now - in the Catholic Church.

So why am I wasting your time on a church that so many good folks right here at the Cafe have left?  Because this entity, the Catholic Church, which claims a moral right to dictate doctrine and behavior, is an actual member of the UN, claiming status as a State (Vatican City), and is meddling more and more in the internal affairs and politics of other nations.  Also, as a moral beacon (that to which it aspires), it has been sadly lacking in an ability to analyze the ethics (dare I say, morality?) of its own prelates and clergy - all the while intruding on the bedrooms of people everywhere.

Before I get back to my images, let me draw your attention to something I came across in a wonderful little pamphlet on The Way of Humility:
The risk clearly grows when one theorizes about humility without having any authentic experience of it.  As Pseudo-Macarius noted:  Christianity runs the risk of getting carried away bit by bit beyond its limits so that it will end up having the same significance as atheism.
                           [Andre Louf quoting a 4th century spiritual guide]
Sometimes people can get into such a pickle, when they make one wrong turn and, instead of turning back, spend centuries justifying it, denying it's not working, and trying to impose analogous wrong turns on everybody else.  That's what we have here, folks!

Instead of acknowledging a mistake - enforced clerical celibacy - we have a Metamorphosis - something akin to a gigantic beetle sitting atop a decaying caste system, where supposedly celibate men - without any authentic experience (see Andre Louf above) - are theorizing about sexual relationships.  And mind you, those prelates who secretly have sex are doing so in an abusive, exploitative manner, betraying the very ideals they subscribe to, as well as the people they pretend to "love".   So, a Metamorphosis.  A cancerous deformation.  And on top of that - cloaked in fancy clothes!  Indeed, the opposite of the Emperor in the story.  For the clothes are real.  But underneath the miter, the gold brocade, the fancy slippers?  Well, you tell me!

I feel badly writing all this.  Honestly!  But it must be said.  Honestly.

I see a bunch of problems here.  So many problems it's hard to disentangle them.  All traced back to enforced celibacy.  The first thing is to create a kind of caste system.  Clergy are somehow elevated - "pure" souls who have "overcome" sexual desire.  Well.... good luck with that one!  (As Mr. TheraP says succinctly:  "They're going against nature!")  If someone is called to celibacy, fine.  But that is within the monastic tradition, where humility is practiced.  And you'll never see an authentic monk whose demeanor suggests a a different caste from you.

The biggest problem with the caste system is that "holy celibates" - in particular the ones with the fanciest clothes - have deemed themselves the guardians of all "teaching" - whether they have authentic experience (see Andre Louf above) or not.  Not only that, like the Old Testament Book of Leviticus, you have a purity system going.  Where those who are supposedly most pure - the men in the lavish dresses - are denying to the non-clergy even freedom of conscience - with regard to behavior which the lavishly dressed profess not to do.

Instead of analyzing the ethics of all love relationships, including their own, we have a bunch of well-heeled prelates dictating a kind of celibacy even to the married.  Expecting them not to use birth control and so on.  (Except for those women the priests have sex with, of course.)  And dictating celibacy to gay people!  (Except for those gay people the priests have sex with, of course.)  See what I mean?  One wrong turn!  And so many problems!

Two more ideas came to me:
Stanley Milgram's Obedience to Authority - a study of how someone dressed in a lab coat can induce ordinary people to subject others to what they believe is excruciating abuse.

Phillip Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment - where ordinary students, dubbed the guards, quickly began to abuse other students, dubbed the prisoners, as a byproduct of enforcing discipline in an "experimental prison" study.
Do you notice the caste system at work in both these images?  Someone wearing different clothing can get ordinary people to follow their commands.  And placing someone in the "role of authority" can induce ordinary people bit by bit (see Pseudo-Macarius above) to abuse others, deemed to be a lower caste.

Compare these images to the Roman Catholic Church's ostracism of gay people and to their commands about sexual behavior in people's bedrooms.  (Unless of course it pertains to the clergy.  Where the caste system allows those in "different clothing" a different "ethic" - so long as it's kept secret, of course!)

See what I mean?

You have the priestly caste and the leper caste.  And there's one more thing I want to bring into this.  Something spiritual.  But something which plays a very important role in this dysfunctional system, all derived from enforced celibacy and the resulting caste system.  One of the biggest problems that results was clarified for me in that little pamphlet I mentioned above:  The Way of Humility.   The demand that someone meet a standard of perfection, complete celibacy, in the context of following a spiritual path leads to two traps:  the vice of "pride" or "vanity" if one succeeds (a caste above!), on the one hand; or a "fall" from grace, on the other hand.  In order to arrive at humility, according to the ascetics like Pseudo-Macarius, one needs to fall, over and over again.  And to admit that.  And repent. And change one's behavior.  Thus, losing any pretense to be "better than" or  a caste above.

But when priests fall, they hurt others. 
Unless they leave the priesthood.  They expect the one they profess to "love" to keep the relationship secret.  They expect the "beloved" to play second fiddle to their marriage to the church.  They deny their love relationship.  They deny their love partner.  They deny their own children.  All the while playing the "pure" shepherd - and pretending to lead the sheep.  Whether it's a gay relationship or a straight relationship, it's hypocrisy.  It's living a lie.

It's not the sex that's wrong.  It's the treatment of the other that is wrong.  Catholic priests who engage in sexual relationships, all the while staying in the priesthood, are exploiting and abusing the honest, caring feelings of other people.  Their flocks.  And the ones they secretly love.  This latter betrayal is not usually clear to those whom they love - often not for many years.  The beloved may feel "special," raised up to a high caste, but eventually it takes a terrible toll.  For the one who wants to "love a Catholic priest" must do all the sacrificing.  The priest's role comes first.  There is never any "union" of two lives.  The kind of self-sacrifice and equality that should be part of any "marriage" (whether actual marriage or simply a partnership of long years) will never come about.  One party has dictated the terms of the relationship. And that is what abuse means.  That is abuse of authority.   That is exploitation.

Anyone in such a relationship is in denial if they fail to see they're being exploited.  I have compassion for their plight.  I have tremendous compassion for those laboring under enforced celibacy.  But if you fall in love with someone and want to have an honest sexual relationship, which is not exploitative, by all means, leave your marriage first, leave your priesthood first.  And if you refuse to do so, I cannot condone the behavior.



I have just come to an awful conclusion.  The very same neocon principles, derived from Leo Strauss, which I summarized here would appear to be very similar to what we see flowing from within the Vatican, and dispersed to the "elite" upper caste prelates and clergy.  I've reposted the list of these principles below:

Straussian/Neocon "Principles" 101 - (TheraP's cliff notes version):
  1. Noble Lies (lies/secrecy as "virtue" - > 4,10,13)
  2. Perpetual War (war as "virtue" -> 5, 6, 8, 13)
  3. Fear of the masses and democracy (-> 4, 9)
  4. Government by an elite (covert rule of "the wise" -> 1,10)
  5. Instilling a sense of superiority in a nation (-> 8, 13)
  6. Stability/Unity via FEAR of an external threat (->13)
  7. Exploiting moral issues/religion's hold on the people (->1,13)
  8. National survival - supersedes the well-being of others (->2,5)
  9. Contempt for dissenters (->10,13)
  10. Those in power make the rules and call it justice (->1,13)
  11. Combination of religion and nationalism (->7,13)
  12. Fear - greatest ally of tyranny (->1,6,13)
  13. Manipulate the images (media, based on idea of Plato's cave)
[Synopsis above taken from the following sources:  Shadia Drury, Brad deLong, Karen Kwiatkowski, Don Swift, Jeffrey Steinberg, and  Danny Postel, who includes an extensive bibliography and interview with Shadia Drury, the Strauss expert.]  (see original post for more info on these experts)
So we have the "marriage" of the right-wing and the Catholic Church.  No surprise that.  But the coincidences with C-Street, The Family, Machiavellian plotting and even the Germanic origin of the pope and Leo Strauss give me great pause here.  (Again, see the original post for more.)


Puzzlement (11.15.09)

Robert died yesterday afternoon.  Robert was gay.  He lived right behind us.

I find it strangely moving that yesterday was also the day that the last, huge, piles of leaves were collected:  The last Autumn leaves.  Pushed into gigantic piles.  Overnight, just the day before.  Collected yesterday - just hours before Robert's passing.

Yesterday afternoon at 3:00, Robert's life was "collected" by his Maker.  Now he's free.  And the most amazing thing happened.  I say amazing because such a thing has never happened in the neighborhood before.

Last night, the doorbell rang.  It was a young man, house-husband, who lives across from Robert.  He takes care of the children while his wife works.  He'd come in the darkness to our doorstep.  To tell us that Robert had died.  He'd just come from talking to Steve, Robert's partner.  I don't know if he went around to other houses.  But nothing like this has ever happened before.

Later on the phone rang.  It was the old lady who lives next to Robert.  She's a widow.  A few months back she had phoned to ask us how Robert was doing, as the ambulances had come and taken him back to the hospital.  This time she phoned to tell us that Robert had died.  She had learned this.  And felt moved to call us.  Nothing like this has ever happened before.

I want you to understand:  I hardly know these people!  But I did know Robert. 

Robert lived just behind us for a number of years.  Maybe as many as 15.  Steve came to live with him at a certain point.  We'd known he was gay before Steve arrived.  Robert loved gardening.  He loved flowers.  He loved his cats.  And he loved Steve. 

We also have a couple of lesbian couples in the neighborhood.  Quiet people.  Probably 4 doors down on either side - across the street.  Quiet people.  Families, just like everyone else.

Now here's the thing:  You'd think that if such loving and stable relationships were a "bad influence" - then bad things would be happening in the neighborhood.  Just the opposite!  Young couples have moved in and are having babies like crazy.  Many people keep going to church.   Even sending their kids to parochial schools.  Public schools too.  Others just live lives of quiet virtue.  There's a pretty active neighborhood association.  There's a lot of getting together and caring going on.  So much caring that Robert's death is being marked as no other event I can recall in the neighborhood.

So where is the bad stuff that opponents of gay marriage keep predicting?  That's what's puzzling me How come so much good is in evidence?


I have a scientific side to me.  If this were an experiment, you'd be looking for the evidence.  You'd set up a hypothesis - to prove or disprove.  Please... where is the evidence of gay wrong-doing?  Where is the evidence of any harm at all?

All I see is evidence that disproves what the fundies and the arch-conservatives are telling us.  (Sure enough!  Another phone call...)



The Great Divide (11.6.09)

I think I understand
what is happening
in our land.

It's the solution
that evades me.
There is a huge fissure in the social fabric.  Indeed there is, on the part of some, an inability to even see the social fabric.

To those who cry for personal freedom and decry efforts, of whatever type, to care for our brothers and sisters (the least among us, the excluded, the poor, the sick, the illegal immigrant, those who cover their heads or use a different name for god, those who ask simply to marry the one they love), selfishness is a god, not freedom.  But they don't seem to see that.

What pains me most, what makes it nearly impossible to write at all, is this deeply ingrained selfishness and greed, which asserts that individuals are somehow "free" when they most disregard their fellow human beings.  Oh, I'm sure they wouldn't see it that way.  They think of themselves as fine, upstanding patriots - who are only interested in urging others to "stand up" and "fend for themselves".  Yes, they would say this to the sick and the lame and the poor and the downtrodden.

They would tell them, without performing any miracle, to "take up your bed and walk" - something that Jesus is described as saying.  But when Jesus said it, there was a gift of healing.
I am at a loss
for how
to get across
to folks
who are the haves and have mores
that we are put
upon this earth
to share
and care.
This is my dilemma.  This is a source of great suffering to me. 

And if you are reading this - and you fail to understand my suffering or what I've written - then please... this is not the blog for you to comment on.  Because apparently your heart seems unable to open up.  And that is exactly what is paining me.  Truly.

How do we first get people to open their hearts?  This is breaking my own heart!
To dwell with the suffering,
 in the suffering,
 that is sometimes all we can do.

 that somehow,
 if enough of us are willing to dwell there,
 it will become some kind of black hole -
 which pulls others
 into it.

Peace upon all.