Skeptical and/or Open

I strive to achieve a balance 
between two conflicting approaches in life: 
a skeptical scrutiny of all ideas that are served up to me
 and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. 

Obviously those two modes of thought are in some tension,
but if I am able to exercise only one of these modes, 
whichever one it is, 
I'd be in deep trouble.

If I were only skeptical, 
then no new ideas make it through to me. 
I'd never learn anything new. 
I'd become a crotchety old person 
convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. 
(Maybe it is.)

But every now and then, 
a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. 
If I were too skeptical about everything, 
I'd miss or resent it, 
standing in the way of understanding and progress.

On the other hand, if I were open 
to the point of gullibility 
without an ounce of skepticism in me, 
I would not be able to distinguish the useful 
from the worthless ones. 

If all ideas have equal validity,
 then I'd be lost, 
because then, no ideas would have any validity at all.

Another alternative,
practiced by the Roman Catholic Hierarchy
is to allow neither,
allowing No skepticism of Church Teaching
and
No new ideas.

Perhaps that's the easier approach.

Silence Broken

What is important to me 
must be spoken/written, 
made verbal, shared, 
even at the risk of having my ego bruised 
or being misunderstood. 

The sharing heals me, 
beyond any other effect. 

To question 
or to speak what I believe
has brought some pain. 
but we all hurt in so many different ways, 
and pain either changes or ends. 

I had betrayed myself into small silences, 
by not saying what had to be said,
while I was beholden to someone else’s words. 

But then, I began to recognize a source of power 
within myself 
that comes from the knowledge 
that while it is desirable not to be angry, 
learning to put my anger into a perspective 
gave me great strength.

In silence, 
I drew the face of my own fear,
 fear of contempt, of censure, of judgment, of recognition, of challenge,
of isolation. 

But most of all, I think, I feared the visibility 
without which none of us can truly live,
and that visibility which made me most vulnerable 
turns out to be the source of my greatest strength.

In the transformation of my silence into language and action, 
it was vitally necessary for me to establish or examine 
my role in that transformation 
and to recognize it as vital 
to that transformation.

For those of us who write,
 it is necessary to scrutinize not only the truth of what we speak, 
but the truth of the language by which we speak it. 

I am driven to share and spread the words 
that are meaningful to me. 
It is necessary to for me to live and speak 
those truths which I believe and know 
beyond understanding. 

Because in this way alone 
can I survive and grow,
by taking part in a process of life 
that is creative and continuing, 
that is growth.

The fact that I exist 
and that I speak/write my words 
is an attempt to break silence 
and bridge differences between us, 
for it is not difference which immobilizes us, 
but silence. 

There are so many silences to be broken.

Unlimited Energy

Nature 
functions with effortless ease: 
whether it’s a blossoming flower, a drifting cloud, a rushing river;
each moves in harmony with the universal energy of love 
without having to “try” and struggle. 

In fact, 
everything is the way it should be at this moment.

My body is a vessel of energy. 
I can choose to save energy or expend energy, 
depending on my emotional state of being.

When I am motivated by fear and ego, 
I waste large amounts of energy 
and even set up blockages 
that inhibit positive flow. 

I waste precious energy 
when I mentally and emotionally resist 
my present situation; 
it’s similar to struggling against a riptide 
instead of just floating with it 
until the current ends.

When my actions are motivated by love, 
I tap into the organizing power of the Universe, 
and I really take off. 

When I go with the flow,
accepting things as they are,
 I conserve this precious energy, 
allowing me to better accomplish goals 
and manifest my desires.

Love is an limitless source of power,
always freely available to me,
without a struggle.

Another View

"If you feel deeply enough, 
you stay.  

Not because you’re a masochist, 
but because it’s worth it. 

You’re struggling 
for the soul of something.” 

(Elizabeth Johnson)


If you feel deeply enough,
You leave.

Not because you're a quitter,
but because YOU are worth it.

You're struggling
for your own
Spiritual Growth.

(John Chuchman)

Artists All

We must have the courage 
to bring forth the treasures 
that are hidden within us.

Something wonderful is sheltered inside. 
We are all walking repositories 
of buried treasure. 

One of the oldest and most generous tricks
 the universe plays on us human beings, 
both for its own amusement and for ours
is burying strange jewels deep within us all
and standing back to see if we can find them.

The hunt to uncover those jewels
is living Creatively.

The courage to go on that hunt
 is what separates a mundane existence 
from an enchanted one.

We must risk delight,
having the stubbornness to accept our gladness 
in the ruthless furnace of this world,
living in a state of uninterrupted marvel.

We must be Creative,
recognizing and appreciating the creativity in fixing a meal, 
playing games with a child, 
imagining a garden. 

Without Creativity, 
we will never be able to realize our own capacities. 

Without Creativity, 
we will never know the world as richly 
as it longs to be known. 

Without Creativity,
our lives remain small,
far smaller than we want our their lives to be.

Fear of being Creative 
is a desolate boneyard 
where our dreams rot. 

While the paths and outcomes of creative living 
will vary wildly from person to person, 
a creative life is an amplified life. 

It’s a bigger life,
 a happier life, 
an expanded life, 
and a hell of a lot more interesting life. 

Continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels 
that are hidden within
 is a fine art, in and of itself.

Only when we are Creative,
and at our most playful, 
can Divinity finally get serious with us.

Prophets

I admire
those with the passionate will, 
the intelligence, 
and the courage 
to stand up as against 
the so-called teachers,
in clerical garb, 
who maintain and defend their positions of authority
by relying on the ignorance of people.

They have exposed the hierarchy of this age 
in clear and impressive language,
 overcoming narrow homophobic thinking.

The Bishops who reason preposterously, 
or not at all,
establish some conclusion in their minds 
either because it is their own 
or because they received it 
from some other hierarch 
who commanded their obedience.

Religiously,
they hang on to 
thoughtless doctrine and dogma,
notwithstanding
irrelevancy and reality to the contrary.

Arguments in support of their fixed ideas
 no matter how simple and stupid 
gain instant acceptance and applause
by compliant non-thinking pewsitters.

Whatever is brought forward against them,
however ingenious and conclusive, 
is received with disdain, condemnation, and even rage
by men in pointy hats believing themselves
God's representatives on earth,
scheming to suppress and silence all adversaries.


Thank God
for those who
Move on,
loudly,
as well as those who stay,
but use their voices 
to speak Truth to Power.


Faith is . . .

Faith stripped down
to its essentials
is Mystery;
Doing so is Mysticism.

God is Infinite Holy Mystery
that draws near
through Incarnation.

You and I 
are called into God.

When I accepted
the silent immensity
that surrounds us,
infinitely distant,
yet infinitely near;
When I received it
as a 
Sheltering Nearness
and
Tender Love;
When I accepted my own life
in all its consciousness,
in all its humanity,
with all its yearning,
(only possible with Grace)
I trust
I have attained
A Mystical Experience of
Faith.

In accepting my life,
I fall into the unfathomable mystery
at the heart of my existence,
requiring loving self-surrender.

It has NOT made everything clear;
(very little, in fact)
God does not spare me
Bewilderment.

But I know
God is Present
where my life is lived
Honestly,
Bravely,
Eagerly,
Responsibly,
Lovingly,
Compassionately,
even without any reference to
religion.

This, indeed, is my Faith.



Sacred Center

For me, 
the labyrinth is 
a great reminder of who I am
and a blueprint of my human experience. 

Just like the labyrinth, 
I have a sacred center,
still, unwavering, peaceful, connected. 

I also have the chaotic qualities 
of twists and turns that cause me to feel lost, 
even though I am not. 

My sacred center is surrounded 
by my love drama, 
relationship drama, 
health drama, etc., 
and I get so caught up in the ego-dance 
that I forget (or fall asleep) 
to the memory of my true essence
my sacred center,
 our sacred center.

When I recognize the true essence of my BEING, 
I also become adept at recognizing 
that which is not me.

When Michelangelo was asked 
how he managed to carve the statue of David out of a huge block of marble, 
he explained that he simply visualized David 
and then carved away everything that was not David.

Getting to know myself as divine spirit
having a human experience 
allows me the opportunity to“carve away” 
everything that does not truly belong to me, 
and that which doesn’t truly serve others.

How do I get to know the authentic aspect of who I am? 
I simply begin to pay attention 
to the difference between who I really am 
and who I pretend to be. 

I notice my self-talk. 
I notice what I say to myself 
and to others, 
as well as how I say it. 

I notice the blessings and gifts 
that are bestowed upon me daily. 
I notice my talents and creative abilities. 
I notice my feelings. 

I Sit in silence and simply listen. 
I Invite my true essence 
to come forward 
and create the space for It to do so. 

The results pleasantly surprised me.

Living Responsibly

For me,
being responsible means 
refusing to let others do my thinking;
 it means learning to respect and use 
my own brain, heart, intuition, and conscience
in grappling with life's journey. 

 Being responsible 
means insisting that those to whom I give my friendship and love 
respect me. 

Responsibility 
means that I don’t fall for the shallow and easy solutions
 of institutional religion.

 It means that I refuse to sell my talents and aspirations short, 
feeling unworthy,
simply to avoid conflict and confrontation.

Being responsible requires the courage to dissent,
respecting my own sense of purpose and integrity 
as a human being.

The difference between a life lived actively, 
and a life of passive drifting and dispersal of energies, 
is immense. 

Once I began to feel committed to living responsibly
 I could never again be satisfied with living my old, passive way.

Too often, I failed to see
that clear thinking, 
active dialogue, 
and excellent writing 
are all necessary for intellectual freedom, 
and that these require hard work
and courage.

Too many
live a life irresponsibly,
never overcoming institutional religion's
unworthiness and guilt programming.

How sad.

Silence is . . .

I used to think of silence 
in the context of interrupted action. 

My pursuit of silence is different 
from most of my other pursuits 
in that it involves a surrender of the chase, 
abandonment of my efforts 
to impose my will and vision on the world. 

Not only is silence about being still; 
my pursuit of silence requires
 a step backward from the tussle of life.

 It is tough finding Silence 
in an age of incessancy, 
constant noise already heard 
and forgotten.
Sound imposes a narrative me
and it’s always someone else’s narrative. 

I used to think noise bothered
my attempts at meditation
(my contemplation)
eventually learning that
 it was I bothering the noise.

Silence is not a function of what I thought of as silence. 
It’s when my reaction is quiet. 
Silence is 
the end my protests against the way things are.

Contemplation
(Silence)
is simply
a long Loving look
at
what is.



My Anger


Looking back
at my Anger
at how the hierarchs
were corrupting/destroying
my church,
I discovered that
it was a form of compassion.

My anger 
was a manifestation of my compassion
for others, for my ideals, the vulnerable and all about to be hurt
by an intolerant abusive hierarchy.

Anger was a form of care, 
the internal living flame of my anger 
illuminated what I belonged to, 
what I wished to protect 
and what I was willing to hazard myself for. 

My anger 
was only what was left of its essence 
when I was overwhelmed 
by its accompanying vulnerability, 
when it reached the lost surface of my mind, 
when it touched the limits of my understanding. 

My anger
was actually only my incoherent physical incapacity 
to sustain this deep form of care
 in my outer daily life; 
the unwillingness to be large enough and generous enough
 to hold what I loved helplessly 
with the clarity and breadth of my whole being.

My anger on the surface 
was the outer response 
to my own inner powerlessness, 
a powerlessness connected to such a profound sense of rawness and care 
that it could find no proper identity or voice, 
or way of life to hold it. 

My anger
 was often simply the unwillingness 
to live the full measure of my fears 
or of my not knowing.

My anger broke to the surface most often 
through my feeling there was something profoundly wrong 
with this powerlessness and vulnerability.

My anger in its pure state 
was the measure of the way I am implicated in the world 
and made vulnerable through love in all its specifics.

My anger truly felt at its center 
was the essential living flame 
of being fully alive and fully here; 
it was a quality I followed to its source, 
a quality I prized, 
a quality I tended, 
while finding a way to bring that source fully into the world 
through making my mind clearer and more generous, 
my heart more compassionate 
and my body larger and strong enough to hold it. 

What I called anger on the surface 
only served to define its true underlying quality 
by being a complete but absolute 
mirror-opposite of its true internal essence.

I had to learn that spiritual maturity 
is the ability to live fully and equally in multiple contexts; 
most especially, the ability, despite my grief and losses,
 to courageously inhabit the past the present and the future 
all at once. 

The wisdom that comes from spiritual growth
 is recognized through a disciplined refusal 
to choose between or isolate 
three powerful dynamics that form human identity: 
what has happened, 
what is happening now 
and what is about to occur.

Spiritual Maturity called me 
to risk myself for a bigger picture,
 a larger horizon; 
for a powerfully generous outward incarnation 
of my inward qualities 
and not for gains that make me smaller, 
even in the winning.

Spiritual growth asks me to be larger, more fluid, more elemental, 
less cornered, less unilateral, 
a living conversational intuition 
between the inherited story, 
the one I am privileged to inhabit 
and the one, 
if I am large enough and broad enough, and moveable enough 
and even, here enough, 
about to occur.


Stages

Between age seven and puberty,
 God looked human for me 
and I took religious stories and symbols literally. 

Later,
my beliefs were determined by dogma and doctrines
handed down by religious authority figures. 

With further development, 
I grew to a stage of critical reflection, 
where the religious stories and symbols were de-mythologized
 and my self-actualizing drives emerged.

Late in life,
I became alive to paradox and the truth 
in apparent contradictions,
and was freed 
from the confines of tribe, class, religion, or nation.

At my earlier levels, 
Others represented a threat, 
or objects of derision, 
even opportunities for conquest or conversion. 

I am now much more accepting of Others,
living in a universalized faith, 
characterized by my taste and feel 
for a transcendent moral and religious actuality,
with devotion to compassion 
and an enlarged vision of Community.

I realize now that my religion-driven tension 
stemmed from a dogmatic and tribal mindset
typical of those stuck in the early stages of development. 

Throughout the world, 
tension and conflict arise 
when religions bump up against one another, 
and against those of us
whose perspectives are more pluralistic 
and inclusive.

Be not Bamboozled

I used to crave certainty; 
My religion claimed to have attained it. 

I learned that the most I can hope for 
is successive improvements in my understanding, 
learning from my mistakes, 
but knowing that absolute certainty will always elude me.

I will always be mired in error. 
The most I can hope for is to reduce the error a little.
Error is a pervasive, visible self-assessment of the reliability of my knowledge.

I try to think in a way
that is at once imaginative and disciplined. 
I let the facts in, even when they don’t conform to my preconceptions. 

I carry alternative hypotheses in my head 
and see which best fit the facts. 
I hold a delicate balance between no-holds-barred openness to new ideas, 
however heretical, 
and a rigorous skeptical scrutiny of everything,
new ideas and established wisdom. 

Despite religious teaching to the contrary,
I have no forbidden questions, 
no matters too sensitive or delicate to be probed,
 no truths unquestioned. 

My openness to new ideas, 
combined with a skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, 
sifts the wheat from the chaff. 

It makes no difference how smart, august, or beloved I think I am. 
I know must keep questing/questioning 
in the face of determined, expert religious criticism. 

I value diversity, debate, and true dialogue.
I seek opinions substantively and in depth.
Doubt is humility. 

I do not seek to impose my needs and wants on others,
but instead humbly interrogate and take seriously what I find. 

I live in human imperfection. 
I am constantly prodding, challenging, seeking contradictions 
or persistent residual errors, 
considering alternative explanations, 
enjoying heresy. 
I love those who convincingly disprove established beliefs.

I dare to call the bluff of those who pretend to have certain knowledge. 
It is my bulwark against religion misapplied. 

When lucky,
I find an occasional straw of truth 
awash in a great ocean of confusion.

Resisting religious bamboozlement
 requires vigilance, dedication, and courage
and if I don’t practice tough habits of thought, 
I cannot hope to be transformed
or even grow.

Risk of Dialogue

True Dialogue takes courage.

In it, I give myself over to two possibilities: 
the possibility of planting seeds
and watching some blossom into breathtaking flowers
of mutual understanding
or
the possibility of being wholly misunderstood, 
reduced to a withering weed of mere conversation.

Honesty and Openness
go a long way in fertilizing the soil, 
but there is always a degree of unpredictability 
in the climate of communication
as even my warmest intention 
can be met with frost. 

Yet something impels me to surrender 
to the beauty and the terror of trying to grow
True Dialogue, 
an ancient and abiding human gift. 

And the most magical thing, 
the most sacred thing, 
is that whatever the outcome, 
blossoms or weeds,
I am transformed
by the gardening.

Hierarchical Church
cannot allow true dialogue
as it might have to admit it was wrong
and/or it might have to Change.


Emancipation Proclamation

I only began to attain spiritual maturity 
and a sense completeness/wholeness 
with my emancipation or unbinding
from institutional religion.

The great liberation came like an earthquake: 
my soul was shaken, torn apart, cast forth
 not fully comprehending the resultant tsunami that was taking place. 

Anger and Grief were part of my liberation
with my soul roving fiercely around
in an unsatisfied longing 
and sardonic laughter at 
the religious truths I found veiled or protected 
by reverential awe,
seeing what doctrine and dogma look like 
when overturned.

I basked in a feeling of birdlike freedom, 
visual power, 
and irrepressibleness, 
something extraneous 
in which my curiosity and delicate disdain were united. 

My free spirit set me aglow. 
I lived no longer in the bonds religious rules, 
without a yes or no, 
not In, but not Out,
neither advancing nor retreating.

I had to become master over myself, 
master of my own good qualities. 

Formerly, religious Hierarchs were my masters;
but I had to acquire the power to act 
in accordance with my own higher aims,
not theirs.

Now,
each day,
moment by moment,
I can grow a little,
fulfilling my fate
to be who I was created to be,
not who others
expect me to be.









Answers to Questions

Often I don’t care about the answer to a question
because definite answers don’t exist 
to all interesting and important questions. 

Ideas about life are complicated given their intrinsic ambiguity.
I had to learn that 
the question often  is more important than the answer. 

I love the questions themselves,
even questions that have definite answers 
but which I cannot answer,
like the existence of God.

I need questions without answers 
as well as questions with answers;
we all do.

My Faith 
is about far more than belief in the existence of God.
 For me, Faith is the willingness to give myself over 
to things I do not fully understand. 

My Faith 
is the belief in things larger than myself,
the ability to honor stillness at some moments
 and at others to ride the passion and exuberance 
that is my artistic impulse, 
the flight of my imagination, 
a full engagement with this strange and shimmering world.

Are the spiritual and physical universes distinct? 
Is the inner separate from the outer?
Is there a difference between the subjective and the objective, 
between the miraculous and the rational?

Is God immanent and/or transcendent?


The Spirituality of Everyday Life


I believe God exists
as absolutely independent, infinite, and Eternal.

The world exists
dependent upon God.

But, for me,
the relationship between the two
is not merely that of Creator and Created,
but
one of God’s Self-Communication
to and through the world.

I think the natural world
is imbued with Super-Natural Grace.

Thus, I am discovering the Spirituality of Everyday Life.

My daily life, mundane, yet blessed,
can become prayer
through unselfishness and
Love.

In venturing beyond the formal practices
of institutional church
I discovered that
relationships, places, events, music, literature, nature
can be as or more Sacramental
than the official seven.

I find many many experiences of grace
in the Everyday Life.

I am now about seeking God
in all things.

I can meet God
in the silent spaces of my daily life,
in the core of my being,
closer to me than I am,
closer than the air I breathe
or the light to my eyes.





God is transcendent, but also immanent
and for me
all of creation bears witness to that.

My every day
resonates with the continuing music of creation,
the Word of God,
made into Light, and Water, and Earth.
Thus, I can and must
Be Still and know that I am God.

I am discovering that
Everyday is a Grace that comes
through the warm embrace of a friend,
in the prayer of music, poetry, art,
in the sunsets on Torch Lake
or on the Arizona Mountains,
in the last breath of evening,
or in the whisper of hope
that all will be well.

Discovering that I can find God
where I am
has helped me discover
the liberating Mystery of God,
Whose center is nowhere
and
Whose circumference is everywhere.

Hierarchical church
can help only to the extent
it helps us discover

The Spirituality,
The Sacramentality,
of Everyday Life.