Saturday, August 19, 2017

twenty years ago today

Dennis Joos, a then young man I knew in Franciscan seminary 1963-65, many years ago, was killed in 1997 NH attempting to disarm an angry man.
The Washington Post, National Troopers pay tribute to 4 people killed in 1997 shootings, By Chris Jensen|AP August 18 at 6:52 PM
There’s a concern, in my mind, this scenario will replicate itself over and overrun the near future —
both in this country and in the wider world.

Keep your eye on those who advocate such violence. 

It is a dangerous virus, they are a dangerous force, at this notably dangerous time. 

Friday, August 18, 2017


DT45 will resign and join Steve Bannon in creating a new media empire.

The presidency was only a stepping stone to an anarchistic capitalist media industry intent on making money by planetary chaos.

The worst is yet to come.

Practice the bodhisatva vows!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

what we choose to protect

"Thank you for bringing me here." (--Sophie to Robert, The Da Vinci Code)

A good line.

In that "here" is the closest spelling of the name we've known associated with Jesus who is called the Christ.

Perhaps her character is right, we are what we choose to protect.

Ask -- what am I protecting?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

our national disenchantment

DT45 seems offensive to sensitivities the United States tries to cultivate. Fairness, justice, humane values, kindness, ability to work with differing views toward common outcomes.

A notable topsy-turvy vertigo wafts over airways attempting to parse the message delivered from the chief executive of the US government about matters that touch intimately on racial, religious, cultural, business interests and safety of the populace.

The old battlegrounds of our national disenchantment are being readied for fresh bloodshed.

It doesn't seem there is a recognizable moral compass that is serving to steer this country through the storm roiling through the damp consciousness churning to the surface disrupting the polite disinterest and indifference of ordinary day to day routine.

And so we live, and so we die.

Does it matter?

Civility? Compassion? Decency?

He is not right. He is not a real man engaged in real governance. He is not really the right man for the job of president of the United States.

He should abdicate.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

the need to transform God

Here’s what we’ve overlooked -- if God oversees and looks into and peers out from everything and everybody, then God is not other than what is seen, what is seeing, and what is looking itself.

Namely, the whole of it.

We’ve been taken with the idea that “the whole” is the perfect and the complete. What we’ve overlooked is that the whole contains within it both the good and the bad, the compassionate and the malicious, the peace and the hostility.

The ancient Hebrew Scriptures telling of the smote and the smiting, the carnage of enemies, the slaying of firstborn, and the crucifixion of a good man -- these are not aberrations or naive postulations of an un-evolved spirituality. These are the telling of what is part of the whole.

Preachers like to tell us we are sinful -- as if this is aberration of some primal state of grace and innocence that was smashed when some act (apple, snake, expulsion) ruined our nature and occasioned the finding of lumber to build confessionals and the church structure surrounding them.  The coffers of mega-churches bulge with grace offerings of twenty dollar bills for smiling pastors who tell us that God loves prosperity and being born-again into the waters of goodness, silk suits, and multi-million dollar homes.

But this dualism is only a convenient narrative to bolster up an error much more primal than the Adam/Eve myth.

The error is the partializing. The dividing. The fragmenting. The bifurcating. Of the whole. Of reality as it is.

Hence: God and Satan; good and evil; right and wrong; blessing and curse; liberal and conservative; Obama and Trump; unifier and divider.

But what if we began to understand a more basic view that says the whole contains it all -- all the contradictory, perplexing, antagonistic, complementary, and ambiguous forces at work in this material existence, physical universe, and psychological perception therein?

Would our view of God change?

And if so, would we be capable of avoiding the simplistic siphoning out of states, conditions, structures in such a way that posits factions of antagonism, realms of sins, and blessings of grace as rigidified oppositions and irreparable realms of warfare?

“God” might be looked at in a new appreciation of complexity as the choice to transform all latency within us into beneficial action outside us (so to speak). It is not a “war” between flesh and the spirit -- it is a recognition of ego-driven desire and a transforming of it into empathetic consequence benefiting everything and everyone surrounding.

Do some whites hate blacks? Do some Americans hate immigrants? Do some Republicans hate Democrats?


But that hate is not far from love. Nor is the desire to punch someone far from the need to hug that someone.

The original “stuff” of the universe is the original “stuff” of each one of us. Fierce forces pulsing to emerge out into appearance for purposes that evade our understanding.

But we are also emerging as sentient, cognizant, and enlightened beings capable of reflecting, restoring, and transforming what is emerging into something beneficial, caring, and pragmatically communal.

By transforming what is emerging we transform God.

As the existentialists of the 20th century pointed out, existence precedes essence. Everything, everything is in the process of origination, development, formation, reflection, assessment, transformation, and rinse, repeat, restore, refine, and recur. It is a human way of experiencing what we have called the Diving Mystery.

If you feel you love God, love the process of becoming human.

As Nikos Kazantzakis once pointed out, we need to become the Saviors of God.

I cite Kazantzakis and Irenaeus because they come to mind.
Underlying Irenaeus’ thought is the very simple, utterly amazing assertion that stands at the beginning of St. John’s Gospel: “The Word became flesh.” Or as Irenaeus puts it: “The only true and steadfast Teacher, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, through his transcendent love, became what we are, that he might bring us to be what he is himself” (Against Heresies, Book 5, preface). The first Christians had a very clear understanding of the unity of everything. As humans, we are one with the whole material world. All that exists is created and kept in being by the love of God, the maker of all things. The act of bridging the immense gulf between God and the physical cosmos, drawing human beings into a life like his, was no haphazard afterthought; it had been the plan and intention of divine Love from the outset. It is as we are that we are loved, for what we can become through the communion that God offers. Sharing the light of God’s eternal love, we discover that truly we are all made for a life that we never imagined possible.  (--from, A PORTRAIT, Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, Taize) 
And then there is Dogen:
There are three points about Dogen’s view of reality to keep in mind here; first: “The whole of existence-and-time is our real body-mind, our ‘true self;’” second: “Every particular thing, in all space and time, that could—in any way, shape, or form—be known (experienced in any way) is, and by Dogen’s definition, must be, a real thing,” and third: “The only real things are mind (or, mental) things.” 
Thus, according to Dogen’s logic, “Since all real things are mind, all mind things are real.” One major implication of this view is that the universe and the self are coexistent, coextensive, and coeternal. To utilize one of Dogen’s favorite modes of expression, “Sentient beings fashion the universe, the universe fashions sentient beings, the universe fashions the universe, the universe universes the universe.”   (--from,  Zen Buddhism Dogen and the Shobogenzo, a blog  by Ted Biringer)
God longs for transformation. Humans long for transformation. God longs for the human. The human longs for God. Transformation longs for transformation.

And so it goes. 

Assumption of Mary

                                (a haiku)

There's nowhere to go

Once you've seen God-everyone

Might as well stay here

Monday, August 14, 2017

some flowers do not disappear from the heart

Fifty years ago Thomas Merton wrote about 2017:
The problem as I see it is no longer merely political or economic or legal or what have you (it was never merely that).
It is a spiritual and psychological problem of a society which has developed too fast and too far for the psychic capacities of its members, who can no longer cope with their inner hostilities and destructiveness. They can no longer really manage their lives in a fully reasonable and human way - only by resort to extreme and possibly destructive maneuvers.

A nuclear arms race.

A race to get on the moon.

A stupid war in Asia that cannot be won by either side.

An affluent economy depending on built-in obsolescence and the ever increasing consumption of more goodies than anyone can comfortably consume.

A bored, ambivalent over-stimulation of violence and sex.

We are living in a society which for all its unquestionable advantages and all its fantastic ingenuity just does not seem to be able to provide people with lives that are fully human and fully real.

There are wonderful people in it, and it is a marvel we are not ten times crazier than we already are, but we have to fact the fact that we live in a pretty sick culture. Now if in this sick society, where there are a lot of very scared, very upset, very unrealistic people who feel themselves more and more violently threatened, everyone starts buying guns and preparing to shoot each other up (remember the fuss about the gun in the fallout shelter in 1962), we are going to have an unparalleled mess. The result may eventually be that people will decide that the only way to maintain some semblance of order will be the creation of a semifascist state with storm troopers and, yes, concentration camps.
(-Thomas Merton, from an essay, “The Hot Summer of Sixty-Seven”, in a collection of Merton essays by William Shannon, “Passion for Peace". pp. 293-294)
At Sunday Evening Practice we listened to Pema Chodron tell the story of the youth (10-11yrs old) Chôgyam Trungpa’s first encounter with a fork, and his being told that he will one day teach the people who use such an implement and he would find they’d be more interested in remaining asleep than waking up. (He would later say,  “Enlightenment is ego’s ultimate disappointment.”)

I was reminded of the time I spent with Fr. Adrian Van Kaam in 1966 at a 3-4 day seminar in Portsmouth NH.
Adrian van Kaam was a Dutch Roman Catholic priest, a psychologist and a contemporary of Corrie ten Boom.  Though they most likely never met, van Kaam did within the Roman Catholic community what Corrie ten Boom did in the Protestant community to assist Jews in escaping the Nazi tyranny of World War II.  He himself was caught behind enemy lines during the Dutch Hunger Winter of 1944.  During this time, people from across denominational lines came to him for spiritual counsel.  As he sought God’s guidance for ministering to people under horrible circumstances, the seeds were planted which eventually blossomed into a comprehensive model of spiritual formation that he later entitled Formative Spirituality.  His model is oceanic in breadth and depth and increasing numbers of non-Catholics are benefiting from his scholarly work.     ... 
This journey into the detailed metatheory and intricate metalanguage of the van Kaamian model has provided me with a comprehensive model for integrating Christianity and psychology.  The model integrates the anthropology and the science of formation along with the theology of formation.  Van Kaam’s model is informed by the pre and post-reformation writings of the Christian spiritual masters.  The time it has taken to revisit the thinking of van Kaam and Muto has borne fruit for me personally and professionally beyond anything I would have imagined and I would like to share some of his concepts with you in the hope that they will stimulate your thinking and complement your work and perhaps motivate some readers to pursue training in van Kaam’s model. 
The concept of “detached curiosity and formative receptivity” is introduced by van Kaam in his work Religion and Personality.  It has been helpful for my clients to learn to detach from both external events and internal responses that are troubling to them.  Van Kaam encourages people to develop a detached curiosity as if interviewing themselves to better understand their reactions and internal dissonance.  Detached curiosity fosters an appraisal of the meaning of those exterior and interior events.  Formative receptivity is an attitude that helps a person recognize opportunities for spiritual formation when dissonance or a loss of peace identify an area of one’s character that God might want to transform or reform in his or her life.   Van Kaam offers a detailed “appraisal process” for people to intelligently guide themselves to a place where they open themselves to the transforming intervention whereby God forms their Christian character.  In a very pastoral way, van Kaam brings people to a place where they, “appreciatively abandon themselves to the Mystery” of God’s formative action. 
Another helpful van Kaamian concept is that of a “foundational life form.”  This term relates to the idea that God had us in His mind and that He loved us before He created the world (Ephesians 1:4-6; Psalm 139:13-16, NLT).  He made each of us a unique design (form) of the image of God.  Of course, we know that the form that God had of us in His mind was deformed by the fall.  Now, van Kaam encourages believers to see that God is in the process of reforming them or transforming them back into the form of the image of God which He originally intended us to be and this constitutes the purpose of spiritual formation.
(--from, The Formative Spirituality Model of Adrian van Kaam, by William Roth,  Th.M., Psy.D. He is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Loma Linda University School of Medicine). 
The experience of those four days with Van Kaam in a Portsmouth school, sitting on playground eating lunch in circle of formative souls, and meeting a Sister of Assumption, Jo-Ann, learning that psychological integrity was isomorphic (my term) with traditional spirituality, was a subterranean foundation for the many years of confusion and inquiry, practice and conversation to follow.

Merton introduced me to Robert Lax whose lifestyle and poetry remain foundational and interesting.

Perhaps Sandoz in Russell’s The Sparrow, and Gene Pitney initial singing -- (”Only Love Can Break a Heart” is the title of a popular song from 1962, performed by the American singer-songwriter Gene Pitney. The song was written by Hal David (words) and Burt Bacharach (music) and appears on Pitney’s second album Only Love Can Break a Heart., Wikipedia) -- reveal that a broken heart might be the signature and curious gift of God and love.

It is one of the gifts I’m willing to return to giver. (Disambiguation.) I am not a good receiver. 

Perhaps the shape and discourse of contemporary political and social culture is a coarsened reminder that we are not well-formed nor well-versed in the integration of spirituality and psychological integrality.

We are ill-behaved brats shouting our wants in crowded places. We believe our half-baked ideologies are balm for tortured psyches crying out for narcissistic satisfaction.

We go on. 

after an
he rolls
in his
me two
in the
for ‘no
(in the
(--from poem, Kalymnos: November 29, 1968BY ROBERT LAX)
My love for that dear soeur d’assumption, begun summer 1966, never diminished. 

She died this past November. 

Some flowers do not disappear from the heart.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

trying to remember what I’ve lost

The thief left it behind
by Ryokan
              English version by Stephen Mitchell, Original Language Japanese

The thief left it behind:
the moon
at my window.

(-- from The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, by Stephen Mitchell)