Category: Light

The big picture

Regular readers of this blog know that I often draw from “Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation,”produced by the Center for Action and Contemplation. When I typed “Richard Rohr” into this blog’s excellent search engine, I discovered that I’ve referenced Rohr in 96 of 1,206 posts.This one is number 97.

Rohr is one reason that in recent years I’ve been increasingly drawn to the “big picture” theme. CAC’s 1/16/23 meditation, a Rohr reflection on Martin Luther King, Jr., entitled “Big Picture Thinkers,” was personally very helpful. As he often does, Rohr put King’s life and message within a larger context (what he calls a “larger frame”).

As MLK applied the idea of the beloved community to a “wider frame” beyond race to economics and war, he lost a sizable part of his following. Then, writes Rohr:

We don’t want the big frame. No one wants the big picture. … Jesus’ metaphor and image for what we would simply call the big picture is the reign of God, or the kingdom of God. … To consider things in light of eternity is a great clarifier. Maybe it comes to us on our death bed, when we think to ourselves, “Is this going to mean anything? Does this really matter? Is this little thing we’re upset about now and taking offense at going to mean anything in light of eternity?” The prophet or prophetess speaks truthfully and in the largest context.

From “Six big picture thinking strategies that you’ll actually use,” by Madeline Miles, BetterUp, July 29, 2022

After the “longest night”

What a privilege to be alive during the era of lunar exploration and the James Webb telescope! These technologies amplify the beauty of this oasis we call Earth. The ancients intuitively understood this blessing from ground level. Jeremiah spoke of the God who lights up the day with sun and brightens the night with moon and stars, who whips the ocean into a billowy froth.

Two millennia before Jeremiah, around 3200 BCE, some people built a tunnel to direct the sun’s rays at the winter solstice to a special “passage tomb” at Newgrange, Ireland, 66 kilometers north of Dublin. Today, it’s a popular, year-round tourist site. Each December, a lottery is held to allow a small group of people to participate in a special sunrise winter solstice celebration.

Newgrange is one of the more fascinating places on Earth. Several short videos provide a glimpse into this historic tribute to ancient mystical ingenuity, including a 2 1/2 minute clip from National Geographic, others from Irish Central, and an essay by Ciaran Vipond with a brief video.

From “Winter Solstice at Newgrange–Inside the Passage Tomb,” a 2 1/2 minute segment of an interview with Professor Tom Ray of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, by RTE, the Irish public broadcast service.

Pre-winter hope

This year the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice will occur at 3:47 pm (CT) on December 21. So, daylight diminishes for nine more days until winter arrives, when daylight begins its gradual increase.

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, some hot coffee, tea or chocolate can help. Even better, some hopeful news stories have appeared in this pre-winter season. Last night came word of a hopeful clean energy breakthrough in fusion technology.

Yesterday, Volodymyr Zelensky held talks with Joe Biden and with the leaders of France and Turkey, amid reports of a flurry of diplomatic activity. In his nightly video address to Ukraine, he said he expects some “important results” in the days ahead.

Yesterday’s worship service at First Church included this affirmation of faith from Sarah Speed:

We believe in a God who offers second chances and does not hold grudges. … who opens the door to new life and leaves the porch light on for us when we get lost. … who believes in us–believes that we can make a difference, that we can choose grace over comparison, love over hate, peace over war. And so we strive to live our lives in love. We strive to listen as Joseph listened, and to be the people that God calls us to be. It’s all that easy, and it’s all that hard. This we believe. Amen.

From “Is the Universe on Our Side?“, a Daily Meditation from Center for Action and Contemplation,” December 11, 2022, which includes this thought: Reality can be trusted. We don’t need to pull all the right strings or push all the right buttons. Grace is everywhere. It’s good to be here. Life is perhaps difficult, but it is still good and trustworthy at the core. (Photo by Benjamin Yazza, Albuquerque, NM.)

Waiting for good news

For St. Nicholas Day: As we drove to an Advent worship service, she marveled at the brilliant colors of the trees. When she took off her sunglasses, she realized that without them the tree colors were less vibrant. Later, inside the sanctuary, she said, “I don’t like those blue candles.” I said, “Put on your sunglasses. They’ll look purple.”

The lens through which we view the world does make a difference. My first word was “lights” at Christmas when I was a year old. Lighted trees are mystical–putting me in a reflective mood. When I rub Friar by the tree, both of us are calmed. In the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we saw countless dogs and cats fleeing with their humans. I wondered about those people and critters as they wait for news of peace.

Some friends and family wait for news of healing. Some are displaced by layoffs, darkened by damaged power grids, confused by changes in their faith communities, frightened by random acts of violence. Uncertainty abounds. And so we wait. From Reddit comes this light-hearted video clip of how waiting works at doggie day camp.

A sober Sunday

The Sabbath, which Christians inherit from Judaism, provides a weekly reminder to “let go” of everyday claims put upon us by the world. In this sense, it’s a day of freedom, a day to envision how the world “ought to be” and one day “shall be.”

In freedom, we have the luxury (even if temporary) to look at the Big Picture. When we step back from life’s daily pressures, we gain clarity (even if temporary) about what’s going on in the world and in our lives. In this sense, it’s a day of perspective.

In her Civil Discourse blog post “In Praise of the Federal Judiciary,” Joyce Vance reviews Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s sentencing of Albuquerque Head, who was convicted of assaulting officer Michael Fanone during the January 6, 2021 insurrection. Vance quotes the judge’s statement:

“The dark shadow of tyranny unfortunately has not gone away. Some people are directing their vitriol at Officer Fanone and not at the people who summoned the mob in the first place.”

The January 6, 2021 insurrection was a dark moment for America. I’m thankful that the judiciary offered some light. May we begin to find healing in that light.

From “In Praise of the Federal Judiciary,” by Joyce Vance, Civil Discourse, October 28, 2022

Truth is liberation

Matthew, Mark and Luke paint like Norman Rockwell. John paints like Picasso, with a mystical eye. His rendering of an ancient conversation is astonishingly relevant: Jesus conveyed to Pilate that his mission was not to be a king (as Pilate had asked, no doubt mockingly). Rather, “My mission is to testify to the truth….” To wit, Pilate replied, perhaps reflectively but likely skeptically, “What is truth?”

The first public hearing of the January 6 Committee took me to #45’s statement, “I am your law and order president.” Then to his FBI Director’s assessment that the then president had “a casual relationship with the truth.” Then to the former president’s new media platform, “Truth Social.” Today, rare is a leader who asks, “What is truth?” They insist their version of reality is truth–the only truth you need to know.

Truth is more than slogans and talking points to frame a narrative. An impartial search for truth about January 6, for what really happened, is essential for democracy. The search for truth, done with respect, is an act of love because truth liberates everyone. Jesus was confident “the Spirit of truth” would guide people into all the truth.” Jesus knew that others would be inspired to “testify to the truth.”

From “The Guardian view on the January 6 committee hearing: truth v alternative facts,” The Guardian (editorial), January 10, 2022

A dawning epiphany

“Epiphany” means manifestation, as in a mystical awakening. It may refer to a new spiritual awareness or, simply, a moment of inspiration. I now see inspiration as cumulative. One inspiring moment leads to another, then another, until the original “ah ha moment” becomes a new paradigm, a new worldview, a new way of thinking and being. This is how inspiration becomes transformation.

I’m in the early stages of a dawning that is both new and connected to life-long experience. I’m learning new dimensions about some old truths. I see realities that have been present but invisible, or dimly lit. It’s a dawning, an awakening that’s helping me make sense of some of the craziness of our world today. Some interwoven themes are religion, violence, racism and authoritarianism.

This dawning began over the weekend through a presentation by Anthea Butler. It crystalized for me during last night’s History Channel documentary about Theodore Roosevelt around the firestorm that erupted when Booker T. Washington was TR’s dinner guest at the White House–in the heyday of racial lynchings. We have much to learn. It’s still dark, but I see a dawning.

From “Nearly 2,000 Black Americans Were Lynched During Reconstruction,” by Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, June 18, 2020

Eccentric

Today’s question: Is there a minimum age for it to be okay to be eccentric?

To be eccentric is to be “unconventional or slightly strange,” or “a little off center.” It’s often associated with older persons. By “older,” I mean older than 71. Those who are younger than 71 and irritatingly to my left or right are, of course, simply “radical.” To be eccentric is to be relatively harmless.

Just as maturity isn’t always a function of age, I’ve known some folks who’ve had an early onset of eccentricity. While it can be mildly annoying to those trying to walk that imaginary space called “the middle of the road,” eccentricity appears to be a thoroughly delightful place to live.

There are just two prerequisites for eccentricity. One is a complete disregard for the question, “Am I old enough?” The other prerequisite is an undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in Truth-Telling. One equivalent is inclusion in Robert Shetterly’s gallery of Americans Who Tell the Truth.

Bill Moyers, 87, is in the Americans Who Tell the Truth gallery.
From Time Magazine October 29, 1965 and Common Dreams

Love

This is post #501. Thank you for being part of this conversation. After exploring the dark night of the soul and hearing that Karen Stenner’s research suggests one-third of humanity prefers authoritarianism, it’s time for some Light.

Occasionally, WordPress will suggest other bloggers for me to check out. One of those is a Germany-based photographer whose blog is SIMONETEFFECT, and whose black and white photography is very powerful. A recent blog post by SIMONETEFFECT was entitled “Love.”

SIMONETEFFECT uses light to connect us, to draw us into community. Just as old style photographs emerge from a “dark room,” a great artist can help us get through our dark nights.