Wednesday, April 1, 2015

An old farmer had made a habit of showing up, morning and evening, in the back of the old village Church. He would linger a while, each time, and then go on his way. A new priest had come in, and was noticing these odd visits. After a few weeks, he approached him.
“Hello, sir. You come here often, I see.”
“Yes, Father, this is rather a habit, since my dear wife's passing.”
“Yet what do you do? I never see you with a prayer book, or even a knotted prayer rope!”
“No, Father, I have never been taught such things.
“So, then, do you come to meditate, or contemplate the Mysteries?”
“No, never learned such things, either.”
“Then, and please don't think me rude, but what is it you do here, every morning, and evening?  as St. Paul wrote, “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”1
“I come here. I look at Him,” he said. “He looks at me. We are happy!”1

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Dancing in a Spiral

Years later, in seminary, one of the professors said this kind of study was a spiral, going around in circles with the text, moving slowly upwards with what we gain from it, but to me it seems more like a dance, moving back, and forth, and closer in agreement: only gaining when I gave up on learning, only learning by letting go of what I thought I knew. Increasing in knowledge only by not figuring it out, learning what is right through embracing being wrong, if that makes sense. What we know is the booby prize: What counts is what we become.

Monday, March 9, 2015

I ran out into the street and hung out my thumb. To see this short-haired cadet in U.S. Army dress khakis must have been as much a shock to these West-Coast kids as their own wild, Bohemian, appearances were to the proper folks in this Deep-South farm town!  Finally, one couple pulled over in – would you believe - an Army-surplus van they had outfitted, and offered me a ride with them out to their new home. Well, actually, we were riding in their home. It turned out to be as interesting and, yes, exciting, an afternoon as I could have expected, meeting the closest followers of my favorite philosopher, and hearing some of their stories and motivations for being where they were, and their hopes for their promising future. Communes and communal farms were all the buzz back then. They were even in the movies, like “Alice's Restaurant,” “Easy Rider,” “Tommy,”  and, later, “Billy Jack.” Some just evolved as a long camp-out on somebody's parents' land, and lasted until somebody broke up or everybody ran out of money, food, or, more important, dope. This was not just one of those. These folks – almost, these gods, to this star-struck teenager – were in this to stay. They had “sold what they had,” and were building a new life out on the land, bound together with a common hope for a new world and love for their teacher, whose words I also loved. With all the conflict in those days between the long-haired Hippie People and what they thought all the crew-cut Military folks were about, and the Military folks and their idea of what the Hippies were thinking, far too much time was spent, with this person or that, explaining what I was doing in what I was wearing, and why my hair was so short if I wasn't in the Army. The sun started to dip, and one of the people gave me a ride out to the county road, and I was able to hitchhike back to campus in time to stay out of trouble. It had been a mind-shifting afternoon.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A concert became my turning point, my release from my dark and dusty religion. I sat in a crowd of about 15,000 at the Boutwell Auditorium one night. Then-rising star Neil Young was on stage, and the combined whining of his guitar and tenor voice were blending together with the mysterious haze that was began to collect around the heads of the people in the crowd. A straw-yellow cigarette was passed my way and, curious, I took a pull of its smoke. A few more passed by as the music progressed. The smoke and the sound resonated together and formed chords of their own, which seemed to flow right through me, and when the amplifiers finally fell quiet I felt I was telepathic with the universe.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dispassion engenders love,;
hope in God engenders dispassion,
and patience and forbearance engender hope in God;
these in turn are the product of complete self-control,
which itself springs from fear of God.
 Fear of God is the result of faith in God.1

1St. Maximos the Confessor, d. AD 662, “First Century on Love,” The Philokalia, vol 2, p. 53, Faber and Faber, 1981, London

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Crazy Quilt, for a Sane Life?

In my grandmother's house, on her bed, was a quilt. She called it a “crazy quilt,” because it didn't seem to follow any certain pattern, like the Wedding Ring or the North Star. The patches were all in their own kind of order, just a crazy mess, to anyone who just happened to see it. In truth, though, there was nothing crazy about it. In fact, each patch had its own story: This one might be from the nightgown of her brother, who died at nine months of typhus. This other one, possibly from her own favorite dancing dress, when a teenager. That patch was from the back of the suit jacket her father wore when he married her mother, back when a gentleman was known by his team and carriage. So, while it may not have been laid out in the splendid fashion of those on display in the Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky, or shown for sale at an Amish fruit stand outside Lancaster, Pennsylvania, this “crazy” quilt held the memories of many lives, in a form to give comfort on the coldest nights, and was held together in such a way as to say that the memories, and so the strength and the hopes of those lives would continue. This is the kind of crazy we all need a little more of, I think. This book I offer you is crazy, in just that kind of way. It contains memories, laid out in a “crazy,” kind of way: not from the West family, or the Pattersons, but from holy people throughout time, as the real, laughing,, bleeding, kind of family that we are. Just like the Wests, we have our quirks, and like the Pattersons, we have a history that, truly, only God knows. But it is not just a collection of old stories for the sake of the telling, but lessons acquired over many, many, years which I hope will resonate with your own stories, and draw us all closer to being one with that Source of all existence.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Project at This Moment:

A young man once went to a monastery, and knocked on the door. The abbot answered, and asked him what he sought. “I want to see God!” the fellow answered. “How long will it be before I will be able to see God?”
Oh, is that all you want?”The abbot answered. “I can show you God right now!” With that, the older man took off through the main buildings, through the dining hall and kitchen, and into the scullery, where a dirty, old, gap-toothed and wrinkled monk was scrubbing out a scorched pot. “There he is!”
What do you mean?” sputtered the guest. “Are you trying to tell me that that old man is God?”
My son, if you cannot see God in this man, you will never see him anywhere!”