Living a Horizontal Spirituality

Approaching 80, 
with only a scattering of medical problems, 
I feel glad to be alive;

 I’m glad I’m not dead!

I am grateful that I have experienced many things
 — some wonderful, some less so— 
and that I have been able to write books, 
to receive innumerable emails from friends, colleagues and readers, 
and to enjoy an intercourse with the world.

I am sorry I have wasted so much time.

I am more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty.
 I appreciate that I can take a long view 
and have a vivid, lived sense of history 
not possible at an earlier age. 

I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, 
which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. 
I do not think of old age as a grim time 
that one must somehow endure and make the best of, 
but as a time of leisure and freedom, 
freedom from the urgencies of earlier days, 
free to explore whatever I wish, 
and to bind together the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime.

It is up to me to choose how to live out 
the months that remain to me. 
I wish to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can. 

I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, 
as a sort of landscape,
 with a deepening sense of the connection to all its parts.

This does not mean I am finished with life.
On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, 
and I want and hope in the time that remains 
to deepen my friendships,
 to say farewell to those I love, 
to write more, 
and to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.

I am not indifferent, but less attached.
I care deeply about Mother Earth,
 about our failed/failing institutions,
about growing discrimination and inequality, 
but realize that these will need to be addressed
by those beyond me. 

I rejoice when I read about or meet gifted young people,
who have been gifted with the talent and skills
to save our species.

I only just truly realized
how great a gift were my parents,
who never ever discouraged me.

I treasure the gift
of my wife, children and grandchildren
who have enriched my life immeasurably.

I cannot pretend I am without fear,
 but my predominant feeling is one of gratitude,
I have loved and been loved.

I have been given much 
and I have given something in return; 
I have read and traveled and thought and written. 

I have had an intercourse with the world, 
the special intercourse of writers and readers,
of grievers and caregivers,
in Love with Compassion.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, 
a thinking, compassionate animal, 
on this beautiful planet, 
and that in itself has been an enormous privilege 
and adventure.


No Vertcial Spirituality for me

A Horizontal Spirituality

True Power
exists in the bonds of relationships.
There is incredible power
when people choose to be
and remain in relationship with one another.
No one person owns it.
It is literally built up
through communication,

Human capacities like empathy and compassion
are incredibly powerful.

It’s a different kind of power,
not top-down hierarchical,
one that our great prophets have known,
well aware of the power of compassion and empathy.

A primary metaphor to explore
is the vision of the table.
We’re going to have to learn how to sit with a lot of different people
whom we never expected would be together.

The table involves hospitality,
feeding one another,

Jesus got into so much trouble
when he sat at the wrong table.

And of course we have the image of the last supper.
I think that image has to really call forth our deepest imaginations.

The other image is that of a garden.
There is something going on right now
around urban farming,
millennials moving out into rural areas
and saying they want to relocate themselves
connected to the land.

These two places,
the table and the garden,
are the social and spiritual elements
that can build out whatever the new world is going to look like.

I’m tired of people yelling at one another
 people within the church saying,
 “You spiritual but not religious are lazy.”
Or my religious friends who say,
“Don’t you go to church any more?”
as more of an accusation than a question.

The arguments need to go away
if we’re going to move into a future that is life giving
and about a sustainable world of compassion for one another.

A different conversation is necessary.

And a Vertical Spirituality
will just not get us there.

Work in Process

I'm working at . . .

 Allowing  myself  the uncomfortable luxury of changing my mind,

Doing nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone,

Being generous
with my time and my resources, with giving credit
 and, most especially, with my words,
trying to remember that
there is a human being on the other end of every exchange
and behind every criticism,

Building pockets of stillness into my life,
Going for walks,
Riding my bike going nowhere in particular,
even to boredom,

Not actively trying to coax the muse
 into manifesting my poetry,
just letting the fragments of experience float around
my unconscious mind,

the greatest creative aphrodisiac,
affecting every waking moment,
dictating my social rhythm,
and even mediating my negative moods,

Believing people who tell me who they are,
Not believing people who tell me who I am,

Just being Present,
a far more intricate and rewarding art
than being productive,

Expecting anything worthwhile to take a long time.

Sensus Fidei Fidelium

The Sense of the Faithful

is a living, dynamic deepening
of the understanding of Truth
that proceeds throughout history
as humankind and the cosmos

It is not something static,
but something essential
for church (the people of God)
to grow into
the fullness of truth.

The Sense of the Faithful
is elusive and evocative,
not simple feeling or blind groping.
It is pre-reflexive, universal, and
broadly comprehensive.
it hones in on
how Faith is to be lived in Truth,
incorporated into the fabric of life.
It is impatient with minutiae,
comfortable entertaining
a multitude of doubts.

The Sense of the Faithful
pertains to
the broad range of knowledge
gained from Experience,
not from abstract theological reflection.
It draws on the richness of experience,
refusing to be constrained
within the confines
of logical, scientific, and discursive reason,
however beneficial and indispensable it is.

The Sense of the Faithful
is participatory knowledge
with some Truths which can only be known
by the knower
being immersed in them,
living from them.
Objective or Scientific knowledge
can indeed be a hindrance
in coming to know in this realm of Truth.

The object
of the Sense of the Faithful
is Total Truth.
Faith is not the sum total
of the truths taught in Scripture
and by Tradition,
but the fullness of God’s Love
speaking to men and women
in their hearts.

True Faith
cannot be reduced to concepts or terms,
but seeks to express itself
in trust, service, justice, and Love.
The Sense of the Faithful
is not unreasoned activity,
but activity that respects
our limits of understanding,
transcended in our searching
and with

The Sense of the Faithful
employs words,
but in a way that goes beyond
the boundaries of speech.

Despite efforts in much of the past
to achieve certainty,
any claim to it today
is pure hubris.

The Sense of the Faithful
does not seek certitude,
feeling more at home
in a world of ideas, values, and truths
that constitute a coherent world.
It comes to terms with
ineradicable pluralism and cognitive dissonance,
even as we pursue
Universal Truth
We are all part of
The Sense of the Faithful
and we never relinquish
the connection.

In a Sense of the Faithful,
the question is not always
“Is this statement objectively true?”
“Does it function in real life?”
Faith is not law;
It has an inner dynamic
which purely objective truth
may not capture.
Non reception of proclaimed truths
does not signify they are false,
but that they do not possess
the requisite value
to advance Life.
The question need not be
“Is it objectively True?
“Is it Life-Giving?”

Jesus or Church

Are You a Follower of Jesus?

challenged oppressive religious authority;
The Church is an oppressive religious authority.

challenged conventional morality;
The Church constructs, upholds, and enforces conventional morality.

was an earthy person;
The Church preaches dominion over the earth.

respected and even uplifted Women;
The Church oppresses and discriminates against Women.

hung with sinners, was inclusive;
The Church is homophobic and Exclusive.

liberated and transformed;
The Church stifles inquiry and dialogue, demanding adherence.

dealt not with personal sexuality;
The Church is obsessed with sexual issues.

 or are you simply a Church goer?

Jesus would not be able to survive
in Institutional Christianity,