Month: November 2021

The shape of spiritual maturity

Yesterday, I asked: “Which of my mentors will I write about today?” Over a cup of coffee, “Finding Ourselves in God,” Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation for 11/29/21, reminded me that Rohr has been my most significant mentor for the past decade. He helps me explore the depth of grace, what son Rob prefers to call unmerited favor, or what others call the fullness of love. Some excerpts from Rohr:

“…the divine indwelling is never earned by any behavior, group membership, or ritual whatsoever, but only recognized and realized … and fallen in love with.”

“…we are standing under the same waterfall of mercy as everybody else and receiving an undeserved radical grace, which is the root cause of every ensouled being.”

“…we are objectively and inherently children of God …. This is not psychological worthiness; it is ontological, metaphysical, substantial worthiness that cannot be gained or lost.”

“It is the very shape of all spiritual maturity, regardless of what religion we may belong to.”

From “Spiritual Maturity,” by James Burns, Bully Proof Classroom, January 28, 2018

Beyond one’s tradition

My friend Claude Whitehead (1918-2005) explored the depth of his (Christian) tradition. In his early 70s he told me that he was moving into his post-Christian phase. He wasn’t leaving his tradition, but rather using its essence as the sure foundation for going beyond it to more universal or cosmic themes.

Helen Lemmel’s hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” includes this refrain:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.

Parochial dogmas and sectarian particularities (the “things” of one’s tradition) grow strangely dim against the vastness of the Universe, the breadth of earth’s many cultures and faiths, and our deep connection with all creatures. Once urgent but now irrelevant divisions fade into a greater oneness.

From “Opportunities for Silence,” a description of Claude’s silent retreat leadership, North Alabama Conference, March 1, 2018

Transcendence

Before we understood that matter in the universe tends to form spheres and that we live on one of those, people assumed the world is more or less flat. Religions tended to view the sky as the province of deities, so transcendence was spacial. We’re on earth and God is (or the gods are) up there.

As we learned more about earth as sphere, we began to think of transcendence not so much bridging a geographical or spacial gap. Rather, transcendence is about time–being invited (by God or by each other) to be part of a future that is better than our past or this present moment.

Believers rightfully ask, “What is God’s preferred future?” Non-theists, those with a secular view, and perhaps people in general rightfully ask, “What is our preferred future?” In either case: Where, and to what, is the future calling us? This week I’ll share some thoughts about this from some of my mentors.

From “Imagining the Future Invokes Your Memory,” by Wray Herbert, Scientific American, May 1, 2012

Perseverance

I’ve learned to neither inquire about or assume whether a couple of people are a couple. I’m not disinterested in one’s marital status or gender identity, though my natural tendency to be oblivious and/or preoccupied sometimes helps me. They appeared to be a married couple.

They either arrived together at the North Carolina-NC State football game or they became quick friends. They kissed after every score. One wore a Carolina blue cap. The other wore a jersey with Wolfpack Red. They won the attention of the camera person and the director.

Rivalry games make the season’s statistics irrelevant. Both teams showed great perseverance. NC State jumped to a quick lead and appeared to dominate. The Tarheels won the middle of the game and appeared to have won when a late field goal put them up by nine points.

With 1:42 left, NC State cut the lead to two on a long pass after a sack, reminiscent of the “Seattle” pass from Tua to DeVonta in January 2018. A recovered onside kick led to another long pass, acrobatic catch, and a Wolfpack victory. The couple continued to cheer and kiss. Both persevered.

They both won, ESPN via YouTube

Two little words

Yesterday evening’s gentle rain was an opportunity to reflect and give thanks. We’ve had a barrage of troubling acts of violence, including “flash gangs” looting high-end shops and the tragic event that brought vehicular homicide charges against a man in Wisconsin. Amid the pain, I was thankful for the actions of two people who were part of two stories and for two little words: due process.

One of the people was Dan Thompson, Police Chief of Waukesha. At a news conference following deaths and injuries at a Christmas parade, Chief Thompson said the city was focused on the families, the victims and due process. When a violent act is caught on video, it’s difficult to presume innocence. The chief chose his words carefully to protect the integrity of the investigation. Due process is enshrined in the 5th and 14th Amendments of the US Constitution.

Among the many tragic stories in the Georgia trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s death, I was thankful for the actions of Larry Hobbs, the persistent Brunswick News reporter who kept asking questions. Without his journalistic investigation, the trial might not have happened. Due process is a precious right that’s designed to protect victims of crimes and those accused of crimes. Due process isn’t always automatic. Public awareness caused by freedom of the press can activate due process.

From “Jury finds all three defendants guilty of murder in Ahmaud Arbery shooting,” by Larry Hobbs, The Brunswick News, November 25, 2021

Medicine’s own long-haulers

An earlier post and a dedicated blog page introduced son Rob and his experience with ME/CFS and POTS. A recent article by Ed Yong in The Atlantic describes how some COVID long-haulers have been dismissed by medical professionals. What’s different about this article is that the long-haulers are themselves medical professionals. Yong interviewed over a dozen long-haulers in the US and the UK.

I’ll re-read it today as part of my Thanksgiving observance. Health, our most precious gift, is too easily taken for granted–until it is lost. From Ed Yong’s article:

“Most told me that they were shocked at how quickly they had been dismissed by their peers.”

“…these problems are familiar to people who have myalgic encephalomyelitis, the debilitating condition that’s also called chronic fatigue syndrome.”

“Amy Small, a general practitioner based in Lothian, Scotland … could barely raise a glass to her mouth. ‘It was a whole level of bodily dysfunction that I didn’t know could happen until I experienced it myself,’ she said, and it helped her ‘understand what so many of my patients had experienced for years.'”

From “Even Health-Care Workers With Long COVID Are Being Dismissed,” by Ed Yong, The Atlantic, November 24, 2021

Vehicular ideology (1970-2021)

I was a radical college student disguised as a pastor who abstained from alcohol, tobacco and firearms. As an olfactory activist, my 1970 Opel Kadett’s 2-word bumper sticker protested the sulfuric aroma of our local paper mill: “Tuscaloosa stinks.”

Yesterday I came upon a vehicle with a more wordy decal on its back window: “The pandemic is a hoax;” “Fauci is a fraud;” “Gates is not a doctor;” “The election was stolen;” “Trump is president.” I smiled, remembering Madison, Jefferson and the First Amendment, thinking: “Is this a great country, or what?”

Recalling my youth and musing about vehicular political expression, I did an Internet search for “crippling ideology.” Among the first of the 9,520,000 “hits” was “Crippling the Body Politic,” Jonathan Yardley’s 1995 Washington Post review of White House to Your House, by Diamond and Silverman.

In 1995, Yardley described “a politics not of argument and debate but of noise and innuendo, fueled not by principle or conviction but by emotion and prejudice. A body politic that not so long ago was urged to reason together now finds it more entertaining to shout at each other through the endless array of media now available to it. The authors are gloomy about this, and with plenty of reason.”

From “Cute and tough, the Buick-Opels were often driven into the ground,” by Milton Stern, Hemmings Motor News, September 2020

1440 Daily Digest

Our nation’s Founders understood that one of the essential ingredients for a healthy republic is the freedom of the press–vibrant, unfettered news sources. The first ten amendments to the US Constitution were ratified in 1791 as the Bill of Rights. Amendment 1 included the freedom of the press. Today, we need discernment about what we read, see and hear.

Perhaps you’re familiar with the 1440 Daily Digest. I discovered it yesterday. 1440 is the number of minutes in a day (60×24). It’s a free daily news digest emailed at 6 am ET, designed as a 5-minute read. 1440 began in 2019 with 78 recipients. Daily recipients are now over 1 million. If 1440 is new to you, I recommend Diego Vilena’s thorough review in TheCoolist.

Editor-in-Chief Drew Steigerwald has a Vanderbilt PhD in Materials Science. Cofounder Tim Huelskamp, after 11 years in private equity and venture capital, focuses on business and markets. Cofounder Pierre Lipton is Chief Operating Officer. Cofounder Bobby Adelson focuses on sports, entertainment and culture issues. I like 1440’s statement of values.

Diego Vilena’s review says their readership roughly reflects the Pew Research Center’s estimate of the US electorate:

From “Trends in party affiliation among demographic groups,” Pew Research Center, March 20, 2018

Morton Deutsch

Many people are working to overcome today’s cultural divisions, living into Jackie DeShannon’s “What the World Needs Now Is Love.”

Morton Deutsch (1920-2017) was on the faculty of the Teachers College at Columbia University for 54 years. In 1986 Deutsch founded TC’s International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (which now bears his name) to unite conflict resolution theory with real-world practice. His research helped shape many diverse decisions, such as Brown v. Topeka Board of Education (1954) and Poland’s peaceful transition from communist rule (1989).

His New York Times obituary noted that a year after firing his MIT research assistant Lydia Shapiro, they wed. “In our 60 years of marriage,” he said, “I have had splendid opportunities to study conflict as a participant observer.”

He said, “We’re all human beings living in this unique neighborhood, our planet, in this universe.”  

Morton Deutsch, from Teachers College Archives

Braver Angels

We’re in a dark period of divisiveness. I see it “bottoming,” as light rejuvenates our capacity for hope. I’m involved with some friends who seek to more fully understand and more faithfully practice unconditional love–which includes tough love. Light is a major theme of the Christian season of Advent, a time of waiting, yearning, hoping and lighting candles. Advent begins next Sunday.

This year, I plan to celebrate Advent by more fully living into the reality and practice of unconditional love. I’ll lift up some people and groups that help me with this. Holidays are now difficult for many families as society’s issues sometimes divide family conversations. This contributes to the “silo” factor, where we have meaningful talk only with those who agree with us.

My friend Kathy sent a pre-holiday email to her family and friends introducing Braver Angels, begun in December 2016 by a small group of “red” and “blue” people in South Lebanon, Ohio. Their inspiring movement has spread across the nation. Kathy invited her circle of family and friends to “check out” Braver Angels. I did. I invite you to check them out, too.

From “The Emotional and Intellectual Transformation of De-Polarization,” on the “Our Story” page of the Braver Angels website.