Saturday, January 31, 2009

happy 60th, Ken Wilber

Happy birthday, Ken Wilber, and many joyful returns of the day!

I did a fairly bad job of preaching on the Integral Vision last year; next year, I hope to present its power and beauty in a much more accessible and moving way. In the meantime, check out Ken and his friends at Integral Institute; or experience his quick trip to infinity:

What you have been seeking is literally and exactly
That which is reading this right now.
That Self cannot be found because it was never lost:
you have always known you were you.
That I AMness is a constant condition of all that arises,
is the space in which it all arises,
has nothing outside of it and thus is complete Peace,
and radiates its own beauty in all directions.

(your name) arises in the space of that I AMness,
(your name) arises in this vast spaciousness,
this pure openness.
(your name) is an object, just like a tree or a cloud
that arises in the space of the Self that you are.
I am not talking to (your name) right now,
I am talking to you.
That which is aware of (your name) is this ever-present Self.
This Self is aware of (your name) arising right now.
This Self is God.
God is reading this blog.
(your name) is not reading
God is reading.
The Self is aware of (your name) and aware of reading.
You are not (your name).
You are what is aware of (your name).
What is aware of (your name)
is an I AMness that itself cannot be seen but only felt,
felt as an absolute certainty,
unshakeable is-ness,
I AM that I AM eternally, timelessly, unendingly.
There is only this I AMness in all directions.
Everything arises spontaneously
in the space of this great perfection that is the Self,
which is listening to this meditation right now.

And you, (your name), are that Self …

All that is arising is arising in this unshakeable I AMness,
which is not a thing or an object or a person,
but the openness or clearing
in which all things and all objects and all persons are arising.
This emptiness, this openness, this vast spaciousness is your Self,
is what you have always been,
is what you are before your parents were born,
is what you are before the Big Bang happened.
Before Abraham was, I AM…
(your name) is in the universe;
the universe is in your Self.

Therefore, be this ever-present Self who is reading to this.
I am not talking to (your name),
I am talking to you.
Let (your name) arise and fall like all objects.
Let (your name) come into being, remain a bit, and pass:
what has this to do with your Self?
All objects arise, remain, and pass
in the spaciousness and emptiness that is aware of this moment,
and this moment, and this moment, and this moment.
Yet this moment has no end…

Since you know this Self,
you know Peace.
Because you are already, directly, immediately, and intimately
one and identical with That which is listening to me right now,
you know God right now,
directly and immediately and unmistakably and undeniably.
And because you know God right now,
as the very Self reading these words,
you know you are finally, truly, deeply home,
a home that you have always directly known and always pretended you didn't.

Therefore, pretend no more.
Confess that you are God.
Confess that you are Beauty.
Confess that you are the very Truth the sages have sought for centuries.
Confess that you are Peace beyond understanding.

Confess that you are so ecstatically happy
that you had to manifest this entire world
just to bear witness to a radiant beauty
you could no longer contain only in and for yourself.
Confess that the Witness of these words,
the Self of this and all the worlds,
is the one and only true Spirit that looks through all eyes and hears with all ears
and reaches out in love and compassion
to embrace the very beings that it created itself
in an eternal ecstatic dance that is the secret of all secrets…

copyright Integral Naked (Ken Wilber, et al)

Friday, January 30, 2009

hope over fear; Cardinals over Steelers

Religiously liberal folks talk about living from hope, as opposed to living from fear. Approaching life from hope is better for our physical and emotional well-being, and it is better for the situations in which we participate. This has many applications, from church budgets to interpersonal relationships, from justice work to individual spiritual practices.

This weekend, it also predicts the Super Bowl. The Arizona Cardinals operate from hope: with their amazing wide receivers, virtually *every* play has a hope of scoring. The Pittsburgh Steelers operate from fear: their defense was statistically the best in the NFL. While I generally root for the Steelers (as long as they are not pounding--er, playing, my Browns), this weekend I expect the hopeful Cardinals to beat the fearmongering Steelers, 27-17.

Friday, January 23, 2009

evolution weekend

Religion and Science have much to offer each other--that is the premise of "Evolution Weekend." Promoted by Butler University, this is the fourth year of their initiative. Seeing as how February 12, 2009 will be the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth (and 2009 is the 150th anniversary of the publishing of On the Origin of Species, it seems like a good thing to do.

At UUCGT, we'll draw on the work of Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd. Their Great Story website has many resources to use, to demonstrate the power and awe of our naturally-evolving universe. My sermon title is taken from Michael's book, Thank God for Evolution.

The official Evolution Weekend is February 13-15, but we're celebrating a week early. Here is one thing we'll do (to the tune of "12 Days of Christmas"):
On the first wave of the universe, Life evolved this way: a burst of energy...
On the second wave of the universe, Life evolved this way:
very many stars, from a burst of energy...
...3rd...planets 'round...
...4th...protein chains on...
...5th...some living cells...
...6th...multi-celled creatures...
...7th...many fish a-eating...
...8th...amphibians breathing...
...9th...mammals a-birthing...
...10th...apes using tools...
...11th...then humans talking...
...12th...more humans caring...

(yes, I will note the fact that many other species use tools, and many other creatures communicate, whether whether via speech or other means)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Robinson's prayer for Obama

Good afternoon,

Before this celebration begins, please join me in pausing for a moment to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

Oh God of our many understandings, we pray that you will bless us with tears, tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die a day from malnutrition, malaria and AIDS.

Bless this nation with anger – anger at discrimination at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants; women, people of color; gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort at the easy simplistic answers we prefer to hear from our politicians instead of the truth about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be fixed any time soon and the understanding that our next president is a human being, not a messiah. Bless us with humility, open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance, replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.

Bless us with compassion and generosity, remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the ways we care for the most vulnerable. And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office fo the president of the United States. Give him wisdom beyond his years, inspire him with President Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for all people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our ship of state needs a steady calm captain. Give him stirring words, we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color blind reminding him of his own words that under his leadership there will be neither red nor blue states but a United States. Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him strength to find family time and privacy and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods. And please God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents and we’re asking far too much of this one, we implore you oh good and great God to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand that he might do the work that we have called him to do. That he might find joy in this impossible calling and that, in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


--Bishop V. Gene Robinson's prayer, which was *not* televised on HBO, due to a snafu, but which I found on this "Advocate" page.

Friday, January 16, 2009

bridging and sustaining?

The Naked Theologian asks, "How do you bridge the distance (if any) between yourself and the divine? How does your God sustain you? How does your God sustain you in making the world a better place for more people?"

I do not perceive an inherent distance between myself and the Spirit of Life; it permeates and grounds all things. That said, I often *feel* a disconnect or distance--but it is always because I have drifted or ceased to pay attention. When, at last, I sigh and say, "Thank you... I'm sorry... I hurt... I desire... Please... Praise... Thank you," I have virtually always felt better for doing it. And, praise be, so far things have generally worked out for the highest good of all concerned (to the extent I am qualified to judge).

At other times, without any request, I have felt Spirit moving in and/or around me, nudging me, chastising me, delighting me, inspiring me...sustaining me. I know that something larger than me--larger than all of us--exists and is working through us with unsentimental love.

As it sustains me, as it provides a larger framework against which to see my and our struggles, it also calls me to respond. It is possible to work against the ultimate flow and evolution, but why would I want to? My own experience is strengthened and made more meaningful by working *with* Spirit. I do so imperfectly; slowly, clouded by ignorance and selfishness, often withholding part of my energies...and still I feel rewarded, sustained and encouraged in the long run.

Even in the face of evil, the heroism, determination and creativity demonstrated by our human cousins inspires me. Not that any of us does or should seek to suffer, or to inflict suffering, but the grace with which some of us handle our suffering ennobles us all. With our every daily effort, we give testimony to the Spirit of Life, manifesting and evolving through us.

...or so I understand, as of today.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Turkish fans threaten Israeli basketball team

Turkish fans were so threatening at a Eurocup basketball game last Tuesday, that the game was cancelled. Shouts of "Israeli killers" rained down, and then shoes pelted the court (nobody was hit). Fearing worse, local police cancelled the game and escorted the players away.

You can read the full story at Dave Zirin's Edge of Sports, a weekly online column that examines racial, economic and other injustices through the lens of sport. Be sure to check out his interview with football great Jim Brown, highlighting Mr. Brown's work with the Amer-I-Can program, which helps youth take charge of their own lives.

Monday, January 05, 2009

happier new year (homily 1/4/09)

Ellen Bass wrote in our first reading that our most basic impulse is to ensure the survival of our children, the next generation—-and “there’s never been a moment when we could count on it.”

That is an eloquent restatement of the twin poles of human existence: we are somehow born, and we must all die. And between birth and death, we try to make sense of those facts; and we fall in love, and get sick, and celebrate various milestones and grieve multiple losses and generally do the best we can.

“This is just living, not a trauma nor dying, but a lingering pain reminding us that we are alive” wrote Larry Smith, in our second reading. That may sound like a pessimistic analysis, but I find it to be quite hopeful. Our pains remind us that we are alive. If I were dead, I would not feel these pains. (Of course we cannot know that for sure: we do not know what happens after we die. To me, of all the possibilities, it seems most likely that we will no longer feel *these* particular pains.)

I am not dead; I do feel pain. My back hurts a little, this morning. I wish it were not going to be so cold tonight. I wish my grandmother were still alive, so I could talk to her, share my triumphs and tragedies with her, and receive her support and love.

I feel those things, so I know that I am alive, and, ultimately, I am grateful. I am glad to be alive, and I celebrate all my relationships with other people whom I love. I give thanks that I am able to experience the good days and bad days that are our lives.

I am even grateful to experience the financial ups and downs of our times. Now, don’t get me wrong, here: I am not pleased about the fiscal hardships that so many of us are facing. The trip that Becky and I have been planning, for over a year, to celebrate our tenth anniversary, has been cancelled. We cannot afford it. My mother lost her job. Some of my friends are working longer hours, for less money, in less-humane working conditions because they *need* to keep working. I know that many of us in this room face similar difficulties. Several have already reported that they will not be able to pay their full pledge this year. Virtually all of us are examining our financial priorities, and making difficult decisions about what to do with our resources.

From bankers to automakers, small business owners to migrant workers…almost all of us are facing tough decisions. Even our state court systems are affected: New Hampshire is halting civil and criminal jury trials for a month, to save on expenses. Civil trials in Florida may come to a standstill, and 17 other states have slashed court budgets. Undeniably, times are tough.

And, this is just living. It isn’t trauma, nor dying; the lingering pain reminds us we are alive—these financial pains remind us that we *are* still alive, and still creative, and still committed to leading full, passionate lives which are rich with friendships and outreach, even if they are not necessarily rich with checking accounts and IRAs.

This is a chance to re-imagine who we are as a congregation, and who we are in our larger community.

Maybe, instead of spending $50 to take our family to the movies, we’ll invite over another family or two from church, and bake some cookies together, and watch a DVD from the library. Maybe somebody here will start a supper group, and instead of visiting restaurants, we’ll visit each others’ homes, and still eat well, and get to know each other better, in the process. Maybe we’ll form a frugal-living email list, and share tips about living better with less.

And maybe we’ll provide similar opportunities for others in our area. Maybe, once a week, we’ll cook a big soup dinner—-big enough for us and big enough to share with some working families and single-parent families and people on fixed incomes…

Maybe, as we help ourselves live full, inexpensive lives, we can help others to do the same, and that will not only make many lives better, it might also generate some good publicity about us, and we might even grow in healthy ways as we live out our creative, compassionate vision of who we are in this troubled and beautiful world.

So may we be.

Friday, January 02, 2009

happy new year

New Year's is one of my least favorite holidays. Not only do I generally watch my favorite college teams get beaten in bowl games :-( but I usually feel a sort of disappointment: I did not live up to my dreams in the year just ending, and nothing feels different about the year beginning.

With that said, I am an optimist, and I do wish us all well in the coming year. May the Spirit of Life work through us to make 2009 a better year for all beings; and may we each experience good health, real joy, sufficient challenge, and meaningful growth. So may we be!