See also www. for more background on this author, old blogs

Sunday, April 23, 2017

How to be just exactly like Yo Yo Ma! Now! It's easier than you imagine!

What's up with you? 

What are you up to, today? 

    Not sure.       Clueless.      Too tired.     

    Pet the dog.     Find food.    Fly a kite.    

    Feed the dog.   Walk the dog.  

    No dog.    So, 

What might you do today?

Curiosity may have killed the cat but it has exactly the opposite effect on us.

What if ....  you explore something you're curious about today?

What if ... 

Curiosity   ---  asking questions, 

questions like "who goes there?"   or

         what the heck is that?      why is it there?   
         who did it?       how?         why on earth? 

         why did....?      why does....?     how did....?"
         what can ....?          when does....?  

are the best antidote to boredom ever! 

Curiosity makes us human. 
It makes us interesting. 
It gets us interested. And moving.

Yo Yo Ma ignited his musical genius wit h curiosity.
His fascination with people led him - a musical prodigy - to go to Harvard and study: 

In an interview with Krista Tippett  *
[On Being,* podcast March 3, 2016, unedited ],

Yo Yo Ma describes his lifelong curiosity, 
his interwoven passion between music
and what it means to be human... 

the driving and consistently parallel 
tracks of his development... were music
but no less, his incsesent curiosity about
humans and culture... what is it with us...

how we express ourselves... musically,
with language, and, 
 in every way  ... 
in every aspect of life:  
why do we as individuals, and as cultures,
acquire different habits?    
for example... after he moved to NY from Paris,
at age 7 or 8, had to wonder,  
why did we invent square white bread, 
and peel-off cheese?  and
why do some have rounded baguettes? 

The master cellist has brought his earliest

Who did it?   And why?  
to his deep musical sensitivity, and
to exploring the varieties of musical expression
in different cultures. 

Curiosity can send us in all directions. 

What makes you curious today? 

Any ideas about what you might do today, now?

I have been an 'anecdotal anthropologist' 
all my life.
Studying people.
Curious, about their  why's, most of all;
"How come you are this way, not another?"

Those answers are pretty dang elusive, even
if we go into deep analysis of ourselves. 

But they are interesting. And often worthwhile. 
Or, at least, interesting. Maybe mildly interesting. 
Maybe not.

But I know this: 
one thing always leads to another. 
And it gets interesting. 
And useful...

Happy curiousing! 


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

New! Look Up! Field Trips for Grown Ups!


                                                                          ~  ~  ~   Four posts in one  ~ ~  ~     

       What are you doing today?

       Not sure?      Not inspired?     No idea.     No good ideas.     You tell me. 

       Do you have some time -- maybe not the whole day, maybe so. Hours, or thirty minutes.

       What is something you are curious about?  

       Go on out there,  or  in there,   check it out! 

        Have a field trip.

         I am not very curious about what is in my basement but I have to face them today. 

         We are moving from this huge huge house with infinite storage space to a very small place with no place for anything extra. 

         On purpose.  Downsizing.   On purpose.  

          Time for a 'field trip' to the past.  Wonder. And, I suspect, let go.

           And that in itself is an experience, letting go.

           May the games begin! 

           I hope you find a baseball game to watch, or play, or a quilt to sew, or a song to sing.

           I'm digging in.  

           Field trip to history.  Oh mercy. 


"What makes you  "come alive"?* 

"Look   Up!  Field  Trips  for  Grown  Up's"

is a fun new book -- close to publication -- all about the joy of getting out there, looking up, coming fully alive,  -- and seeing the delight, wonder, quirky, inspiring, and hilarious world we get to live in.  Oh my.   Stay tuned for pub details.  

Howard Thurman said something that, coming from him, surprised me.* 

"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive!"   

What makes you come alive? 

Parky and I took a field trip in January - already seems like an age. Parky is not, alas, our dog. Nor is it the name I've given to my Lifetime All-National-Parks Pass, given to everyone who is designated as Fully Disabled by the Social Security Administration. 

That pass is a treasure for me. A passport, a reminder that I can,   I really can!  Still go anywhere! 

Parky, alas, is what does go with me anywhere, and everywhere, even when I forget it is with me. So, we took a field trip. 

Still intrepid, in doses, we drove alone through the mountains to a favorite retreat, for four days of reflection, writing, prayer, exploring and adventure, and getting scared out of collective wits. (I say collective because, while we have had to team up, we are not the same. We have our own unique features, qualities, desires, and limits.) 

It was a wonderful, daring, courageous journey. I found places that only an Outback can traverse in four feet of snow. And I found the limits of even an Outback in four feet of snow. But not the limits of Parky. 'He,' didn't keep me from shoveling the way out. And back to the tracks only an Outback could make. It felt heroic! I discovered strength, and determination, persistence, and resilience I feared I had lost. 
That was the point of that exercise to begin with:  to test my limits. I felt I triumphed.

More humbling, however, was a simple fall - surprise! - along a roadside where I stopped to make a photograph. Plop. A gentle fall, broken by a soothing bed of pine branches, fallen before I did. So I landed on my side, no harm done. Except, a bit to my sense of invincibility even in the midst of Parkinson's Disease. Balance. I lost it. And when we lose it, we generally do lose it. Thwop. So down I went. 

And laughed. At life. At myself. At myself for failing to consider this possibility, for forgetting, as usual, to get my walking - and balancing - poles from the seat behind me, not using them. They get in my way. But then, so did a four foot deep unseen hole in the ground. 

I laughed. Glad I could. Nothing broken, or even sore. My camera bobbed along. So I used it. Took photos from this new vantage point. What a world you see from a hole in the ground!  
It is a different world. I explored the ground about me. The decomposition of leaves, moss, the trails of tiny voles, colors not -- no, wait, newly -- found in nature. Pine needles in the disarray and stages of dissolution. Breaking down.

I'd have never noticed, never dug into it had I not fallen in to it. And it opened my eyes -- the literal and cognitive ones, spiritual eyes, eyes of wonder. And gratitude. At nature's complexity and generativity. At the cycle of death and rebirth, decay and renewal. At how the living is fed by what is dead.    

Ponder the existential mystery of that for thirty miles or so. 

Field Trips for Grown Ups is my response to a world that ended when our respective daughters graduated from high school and a friend lamented, "Now what are we going to do?  No more Field Trips!"

"Au contraire!" I told her.  "We're going to take 'field trips for grown ups!" 

And so a concept, first a list -- scrawled on take-out napkins jammed in the glove compartment of the Subaru :  "Hey, Dave, don't use that!  It's a Field Trip!"  So I got a pocket notebook. 

I gave that scribbled little spiral notebook to another empty-nested friend on her forty-fifth birthday. She cried.  And announced, "This is the best gift ever!"  

We took a lot of those field trips, quirky and profound, far-flung and in the backyard. We indulged our curiosity, and even pondered The Big Questions, along with, "do you think we can get out of here?"  

It opened up a world that normally sped by, now in slow motion, slowed down by intention, interest, and the sheer beauty of being. Being with, being part, being  a beautiful space. 

I learned how to see pull-outs coming up in the distance, signal, and cruise to a stop. I learned just how far I dared to pull off the busy roads. I learned to look all ways before opening the car door. I am learning to take my balancing / walking poles. 

My list grew long, with "Magnificent Musts," and "You're kidding? Right?" sections and much in between. Urban, isolated plains, cultural highpoints, humanitarian desecration. We need to know both, all. And this pretty much covers it all.  

Why?  to come fully alive. To be alive within the whole fabric of culture. (Or as much of it as I can experience.) 

To stir my curiosity, and to simply kick up the velocity of my life, to have some fun.   

I shared my list with more folks, and discovered that it definitely had positive resonance in the world of David Letterman's question, "Is this anything?"    

 It was.

This collection happens to be about Colorado. But you could easily adapt a lot of it.  And about what goes on in your head.  Imagination.  Fun. Humor.  You can have a picnic by any stream. Just remember to do it. 

So I took to the corners and the backroads, forgotten stories, stacks of hay in an otherwise empty farm. And discovered the same inspiration I got both from my traverse through four feet of snow and from falling in a hidden hole. Life, mystery, insights, connections that made sense of what hadn't made sense before --- or maybe still didn't make any sense but were interesting just the same. Or the sense of it comes later. Perhaps it only comes to offer up its insights and make any sense in the telling of the story, and making it part of a larger shared experience of the world. I like that.

From Pearl Pass to badminton in the dark in your own back yard, and from clambering on the Flat Irons to an easy walk along Boulder Creek; from historic Five Points to the still jiving, jumping El Chapultepec, and from southern Colorado's lush and verdant high meadows along the Chama River to the surprising splendor in the grass of a spring wheat crop along Hwy 12, in otherwise drab northeastern Colorado. 

From the perverse history of Rocky Flats to the new space age high-wire acts being accomplished at technology 'babies' born full term to send scopes to the International Space Station, and from ICBM's to Mars Rovers, from dinosaur tracks to protest Marches to Honor and argue the veracity of Science! (it has come to this!?),  find a Field Trip for your outer Grown Up!

Ride a MOOSE on the Carousel of Happiness, hit a bucket of golf balls on Mt. Massive, elevation 10,something (damn high!) feet above sea level. Eat the mousse, or creme brulee at Le Bistro. 

Find a seesaw. Works better with a partner. I got stranded. But still, it was fun. 

Go bravely where you have gone a thousand times before. Just go.

And take new ears, eyes.  Along with your old ones. Nourish memory, gratitude, astonishment.  

Go foolishly where only crazy people, like you, would venture. And take back-up. 

Field Trips for Grown Ups has one purpose:  to make us come more fully alive.  To encounter things and people that help us come alive!  
Fully illustrated and with some inspiring words to prompt you to look up, look around, explore, indulge your sense of curiosity and wonder about the world, the primary focus is on stuff to do in Colorado. 

Or in your equivalent places, spaces, and in your own brilliant brain.

You'll be surprised!    Can you still hula hoop?   Remember your first French class 'dialog?' Seeing the Aurora Borealis?  A mountain lion?  A barnyard hen?  A geode?   A tiny, glittery stone that entranced you as a child?  What elicited wonder?  

Stars. The Milky Way.  Big big rivers.  Rolling sea.  Waves on the sand. 

So, Linda, Carol, Tom,  Tina, Ron, Heino, Brenda and John, Rana, Luanne, Nadia, Deborah, Brita, Barbara, Noah, and Dr. Seito (in your spare? time), and Paul, what field trips might you take?  

Estonia to Ecuador, the west coast of Sweden to Marrakesh, and from Montecito to the lobster villages in Maine, from MIT to Harvard (a long way),  from Homer to Hebron, vineyard to olive, from the Texas Hill Country to Minnesota's North Shore, Maine to Montana, you can create your own collection of Field Trips.    Go! 


What's  Up!   Look  Up!    Come alive!

Field trips are simply  ~ ~    but not entirely simply

  • going places
  • getting lost,
  • getting found
  • finding what you didn't expect, 
  • getting out
  • being blown about,
  • looking 
  • seeing,
  • touching
  • feeling,
  • listening
  • hearing,
  • sniffing
  • smelling,
  • tasting
  • drinking it out
  • or spitting it out;
  • waiting,
  • courage,
  • silly,
  • somber,
  • daring,
  • thinking,
  • observing, 
  • wondering. 
All for the sake of discovery, pushing out the borders of what you know . . . through experiencing. . . reflecting . . . openness

I don't mean this to sound onerous, too seriouus. 

But I do mean to encourage more than a drive by!  

Don't just look at a tree.      STAND IN ONE!  

Yes, stand IN the tree. Let it all in. And push yourself to find new places, spaces, people, food, experiences that expand and increase the breadth and depth of life. 


While not wasted on the young,  Field Trips are perfect for those of us who are stuck...   bored...  intellectually lazy...

For Grown Ups who are certain about all things...  

who feel a sense of malaise, "been there, seen it all" --

Well, no, you haven't. And not today. Not in this moment, this light, this revolution of the sun. 

No, you haven't done it all -- not as you are now, in this frame of mind, in these circumstances, as the world is this moment.

There is more. Always more.

Find it! Feel it!  Know something about it!  Expand!  


LOOK UP!  See the stars!  Look up and see what all is out there.  If this universe is purposed for anything at all beyond it's own internal development, I say it is purposed for 

Pleasure.      Wonder.      Awe. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Allan Boesak, not banned any longer, thank God, and in Denver. Racial Justice

My heart is so full -- overflowing. Life comes round. LAST NIGHT ... 30 years after Allan Boesak was arrested and kept in house arrest for his courageous, brilliant Anti-Apartheid activism in South Africa, 30 years after we had spent two entire years corresponding, speaking on the phone, and planning for his visit to Chicago, 30 years after Allan was to be the featured speaker for thousands -- who knew him at that time, by reputation, as well as they knew of Tutu and Mandela, at the Illinois Conference of Churches' "Interfaith Peace Event" (IPE), and I was coordinating the entire thing with fantastic volunteer committees and a terrific board, 30 years after we were all stunned and devastated - not for ourselves most, but for Allan and his family, and for the movement, life rolled around and...
LAST NIGHT -- 31 years later -- we met. It felt like such an emotional 'reunion' among all-but-strangers. He knew my name immediately and there was a lot of hugging, as in "WOW, then, and now... I can't believe it... That was such a terrible, fraught time, such a crisis. His life, among others was in danger.
I thought, last night, also of Bishop Munib Younan, who has a similar place in his 'country,' and, like Boesak, Bishop Younan and his family, Margaret Younan, and others are in our prayers now daily. I also thought of Mitri Raheb and Rana Khoury, (Beth Nelson Chase), and of our vigils for their safety and freedom. The parallels are chilling.
(As an aside, Allan said that when he and other South Africans visit Palestine, they are so "deeply disturbed, for the Palestinians it is even far worse than it was for us under apartheid." And the prognosis is, frankly, worse, more daunting. Thanks America.)
Back 30 years ago, I and others then had spent long tense hours praying for his safety, his well-being, the movement, for his family, it was an all-consuming 90 hour a week, altogether,( the peace event project, putting the conference together,) and then another 90 hours just praying for Allan. He was 'banned,' if you remember that hideous practice. Forbidden to be quoted in public, even mentioned, phone calls monitored, etc. House arrest.
And so he sent a very worthy ambassador to deliver his remarks, his brother, the Rev. Dr. Willa Boesak, a delightful guest, for whom his own personal highlight was our 30 minute private meeting in Jesse Jackson's office at PUSH, with Rev. Jackson, of course. And also a very powerful preacher/speaker.
Just before we went 'on,' Allan called me somehow at the UIC office we had for the day and dictated another 20 minute speech for ME to deliver, in part in introduction of Willa. I'll never forget those moments, scribbling from the phone, And his power, his voice.
Well, there was no way this Swedish-American calm mild woman could ever get up and preach it like the Brother did. Not a Baptist preacher, then or ever. But what a privilege to share that message. And then, thank God, Willa cleaned up! Wow! Not a dry eye. We were ready to get on the next flights to Capetown.
I do know that our weekly protests at the SA Consulate quickly picked up attendance and urgency. And they continued. For years.
Last night. 31 years later. Fjedur is still singing, this time for the Palestinians... "We will not give up the fight..." "We are marching in the light of God!" Still. Forever. Come, joinI think you were there),Susan Steinhaus,Sherman Gregory HicksArnie Pierson, the unstoppable Barbara Gazzolo, Theresa Molgren, Beverly Lucille Conway, and others (forgive me) who walked the circle, Kaia learning early some critical words and lessons, "Free Mandela." Susan Brooks, Dave McGowen, Bishop Frank Griswold joined us, as did Paul Erickson, and the hosts of wonderful ecumenical colleagues.
Now, Boesak, unsentimental and very clear-eyed in his analysis, is very concerned about the "Imperial" life of the world. We must change. If the church will not allow itself to be an effective agent of righteousness and justice, not sappy (how good to know you) piety, but REAL JUSTICE -- AN END TO THE IMPERIAL ORDER, of white privilege. "The Spirit is so determined, she will find a way, even it that is outside the church."
Some of us, including Pastor Louise Westfall of Central Pres, Brother Jeff of Five Points, and other local pastors are going to get something stirred up around here.
Because it matters not one whit that I finally met Dr. Boesak, if this encounter does not lead to ACTIVE ENGAGEMENT FOR RACIAL JUSTICE. JUSTICE. We will not stop until... Thank you, Louise, for your gracious hosting and words, and Brother Jeff for coming soon to Bethany! And Beverly, at MoBetta, we're ON!
David Erickson-Pearson and I rejoiced in sober reflection and commitment. Grace and Burt Nelson, we are in your debt, and Gordon Jack Schultz, you were part of this, too. Even from Princeton. And Paul LindmanPaul Wee, J.Martin Bailey, Lydia Talbot, Paul Sherry, and Paul Hedberg, we did make a difference at NPTS, Bill Marilyn Sandin Ross, you did it. And Roger Willer and Carole Willer, Stewart Herman, and the crew at LSTC.... WOW! And my Princeton University comrades, including Tim Callard, you changed lives!
Last night. And now, this morning, 31 years later. Fjedur is still singing, this time for the Palestinians... "We will not give up the fight..." "We are marching in the light of God!" Still. Forever. Come, join us!
Joan PearsonAnnika Erickson-Pearson, I thought of how Grandma and Grandpa made a point of being there, that day, October 5, 1985. That meant the world to me. And Jims Erickson, you were all in!
(Both Dave and I left our PHONES AT HOME, so no photos from us but Louise and Jeff and a press photog are sending some.)
My heart is so full! The struggle just goes on. I'm in. Are you?
Public Figure
Allan Boesak

Monday, November 9, 2015


Lagom: "just right, not too much, not too little"

"Please describe your perfect date," the judges ask candidate Cheryl Frasier, in "Miss Congeniality."  Absolutely oozing sweetness and light, this hapless belle from Rhode Island, has to think about it. 

Then she finds her voice, "That's a tough one. I'd have to say April 25th. Because it's not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket." 

It's funny to most people because she missed the point of the question.  

It is funny to Swedes and Swedish-Americans also because we recognize what she's saying, "not too..."   It's called lagom in Swedish. We are lagom. 

Lagom:  "It's not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket."  We are 'not too ..."  

Swedes are lagom. They are famous for it. Swedes speak of it often among themselves. Both lamenting it, at times,  and freaking out when they fail the lagom test. "I got a...!" She was too excited. A bad thing. "I got carried away!"  Bad boy. 

Swedish-Americans have inherited this trait from the homeland perhaps even more than any other. We joke often:  "but, but you can't do that!  ...we're nice here!"  

In fact, that was the punch line in the homecoming play at my very Swedish-American college. And it brought down the house. Because we all knew: Yep. That's the rule.  It is simply too true to be understated.   Be nice.

Even-tempered, not too enthusiastic, certainly not allowing very much, if any passion, to sneak past your internal censor - we all have one. And use it often. 

We didn't swoon. We didn't gush "I just love your new hat," or your cherry pie. We noted that "it was good." "Oh, you have a new hat." Effusive approval was rarely expressed. Just the fact. "It's very nice." 

Our favorite joke was about the Swedish man who loved his wife so, so so very much that, after much hemming and hawing, he thought about it long and hard, and so he almost, almost!  came close to telling her once.  Tell me, friends, Swedish-Americans, you have your variation on that one. "He almost told her once."  Yep. That's us. 

Temperance. Balance. 

This can be taken to extreme:

You don't even need to love your neighbor, as long as you can be nice, fake it, or cover up the tension that may be between you. Our cardinal sin may well be the sin of not being nice. 

So, of course, it follows,  "But you can't speak up! No protests!  No speaking out!  It's not nice.

The cloud of living witnesses looking over my shoulder included a very large extended family, all within watchful range, made me extra cautious: beginning with Frank, Johanna, Amelia, Adolf, Olaf, Anna-Brita, Anders, Johanna, Esther and Frieda, Lillian, Helen, Anna, Gladys, , Oscar and Lily, Elsie, Harriet, and Hannah, and August and Hilda, Agnes, Lucille, Beulah, Belva, Violet - a shipload of cousins, second cousins and aunts and uncles plus my own immediate aunts -- there were many many Ruth's. Point being, lots of pressure!  It was a much bigger issue with the women and children than the men, in part, because as I child, I was rarely around the men. And women were held to a higher standard of niceness. Much higher. 

I was smothered - I mean, surrounded by three elder generations, equaling dozens of respected relatives, to whom I was as accountable as to my parents to "be nice." It never even occurred to me NOT to be nice. Nice. 

Niceness was next to - and certainly, in the course of daily life, better than godliness. Superior to godliness. I'm serious. Be ye nice, said Jesus from the cross.  Or so I assumed. Was led to believe. And the point was reinforced with, ironically, a cruel cut. One could be banished for not being nice, for not being lagom. 

That dictum applied especially within our circles of family, friends, church folks, and all the regulars with whom we interacted commercially. And it really only applied when we were encountering them directly.  The old folks who were nice all the day long in public, ripped each other to shreds when safely ensconced with just one trusted friend or sister.  And they tossed around a whole passel of shit, not talking nice about the folks who were absent, perhaps not even really related. You knew if you had to miss a family gathering, you would be scrutinized and judged and found wanting. 

And, when it came to 'odd' persons, those persons who were not exactly like us (perfect, of course!) -- persons who were African American, Mexican, Asian, poorer, much much richer, Catholic, Jewish, the rare Italian, alcoholic, pregnant outside of marriage...  none of these persons were due any but the sparcest token of logom, and often not even that. I watched this double standard for years,  "we don't have to be nice to those people."  

Swedes even today are determined to be logom. There is more than just a shred of truth in that view!  I, too, grew up with lagom being the first virtue. "Now, be nice..."  

Even among themselves, Swedes talk quite a lot about their quietism and lack of emphatic communication. They have opinions, for sure! And it is important to Swedes to have carefully considered points of view. But heaven forbid they tell you what they are!  Whatever they think, Swedes are more likely to express them in even, measured tones and, frankly, they'd just rather not have to get too involved at all in pressing a point in public. Heaven help you if you are passionate!     Mercy!  

So, those of you who think of me as a mouthy broad, (as we used to say), outspoken about some things, bold, "a sentinel," as a friend was kind to describe me the other day, have got to be wondering,  "how did she fall off the truck?"  The 'nice' truck. 

One simple response would be to say, blame it on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It's all his fault. His, and my teacher of Bonhoeffer, F. Burton Nelson.  Burt was among the very first to discover DB (as we refer to him around home). A pre-eminent Bonhoeffer scholar, Burton was very close to Bonhoeffer's closest friend and correspondent while in prison, Eberhard Bethge. And to other members of the Bonhoeffer family. His writings on Bonhoeffer are the clearest, most useful and true 'take' on the life, inner life, and intentions of DB.  

If Burton (FBN, as we refer to him on occasion) was an ardent, dare I say, passionate interpreter and advocate for Bonhoeffer, then I was among the keenest disciples. As early as 1974, midway through college, I took my first DB course. No one has influenced my understanding on Christian discipleship more than Bonhoeffer. And no one has offered as clear a word about grace, either. 

My DB library sits just a few feet from the bed. Once you have encountered "The Cost of Discipleship," you learn that the occasions to not be 'nice' are legion. 

For example, when you learn about apartheid. American racism, especially as systemically rooted in Chicago's (where we lived) structural policies, programs, and in evidence all of the time, wherever you happened to be was reason to hit the streets. And a military / nuclear policy that I believed was entirely immoral, begged a response. 

This did / does not come naturally or easily, even today, to a Swedish girl whose blood courses with lagom. It was always agony to decide to speak out -- about anything. This is not something I relish.  

"It's not easy being me, but I make it look that way."  

I was a mouse for my first 18 or 19 years. A real mouse. I would have never called anyone out. Not even when my own mother stood up to her brothers who had made vile racist comments at the Christmas dinner table. I was so proud of her but so blown away, the nerve!   But I loved it. Quietly. 

So here I am. Prompting some folks to ask, "why do you need to say stuff (about ongoing injustice) in public?" 

Well, the real culprit is Jesus. He taught me too well. He let nothing pass. He spoke 'truth to power' so often that we hardly notice anymore. But we can't ignore him. Jesus was indeed a shepherd. He found that last missing sheep but also exhorted the rest of us to get out there and hunt 'em down. 

"Follow me," Jesus said, meaning, 'do as I do.' I simultaneously hear John 10:10 and Mark 8, ringing in my ears. Both make sense. Held in a single peace. 
Jesus was not lagom. 

In the next weeks you will have the opportunity to see two powerful films about women and men who were not preoccupied with being 'nice,' and getting along.

The women in Suffragette were at their wit's end. They had tried for decades to gain the vote by using gentle, nice tactics. But no one even listened to them, much less gave due consideration to their cause. So they moved on to plan B. I do not condone their violence. And it is tragic that history can only render the facts in one way: that an escalation of their tactics finally gained women the vote. I rather strongly doubt that I could have been a part of that militant wing of the movement. But you come away thinking:  so this, this, violence! , it took this!  

The second film, Spotlight, I urge caution: to prepare your spirit, to guard your soul, when you see it. It is, from all I've read, a truly excellent film. I will go. But not alone. It is a battle between overwhelming power and intransigence on the one side, to cover up terrible things, against another powerful force that accompanies those who seek to unmask such evil deeds. That sexual abuse is evil is not a question. 

If the movie is as good and as true to events as I've heard it is, there is the chance that we will all find ourselves becoming impatient and irritated with those who relentlessly seek to unmask the violence (abuse is violence). Because they are so relentless. Because they seek to expose and make transparent that which even we -- in spite of ourselves, knowing that truth will set us free -- wish not to know about. It is ugly and we would rather not confront it. Yet it is so important that we do, that the secrets do find the light of day, the healing light and spotlight of truth that sears out the wound and begins to heal  it, from the inside out.  It will test your spirit. 

The abuse, and even the careless misuse of power by officials who have the added cachet of 'representing God' is unbelievably soul-scorching to see. Those who seek to expose it cannot be lagom. 

It was never my job to go 'on a tear' as these reporters and editors must. But I did have the responsibility for responding to clergy sexual abuse in the ELCA for almost ten years. It was an agony, soul-scorching in every way. 

We did not go hunting down perpetrators. There were no witch hunts. We simply responded to victims. And sought to care for them, and then to remove from the 'field of play' those who could not be entrusted with the power that is conferred by identity as a "Man of God." 

And we sought to do whatever seemed possible to deter and make it harder for perpetrators to use their wiles to create more victims. One of the strategies was to be transparent about what had happened, what does happen when power is abused. 

So. When I am asked, even now, why go public with concerns, even different concerns, about power and its use or misuse, I can only respond that light is good, transparency is important, and healing is possible when the light gets in. 

This is not lagom. This is not 'me,' the Swedish up past my eyeballs, me. I would rather go on field trips and find the Aurora Borealis and eat raclette and play in the leaves and serve runaway, abused teen-agers their Thanksgiving dinner. 

But for some reason, that is beyond my understanding, God has chosen to entrust me -- that is what 'call' means, in part, -- with this thankless and very painful task of carrying a flashlight. 

I ask you not to judge what I do, but to ask why it is necessary. 

And I ask you to do what is within your power to do, to stop the abuse from continuing. 

It is ultimately not a flashlight, or two, or ten that is needed, but, within the church, a bathing cleansing flood of light that shines in the whole system. 

Pray for those who have power, to use it for good alone. And pray for light to shine throughout the system so those of us with candles and flashlights can put them down. 

Pray for us too. This is terrible work. Because I really don't like doing this.  Nor does any victim of injustice. They/we need to be bathed in light. 

Not just carry a torch. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Steer into the wind, right?

Hurricane Joaquin isn't the only wind blowing! 

It's October.

In case you were wondering, that is. It is the tenth month. October.

October is "just get through it" month for me. If I  make it all the way to the end without committing a serious crime -- I've already had to ask Dave about the legal status of some activities; they're still illegal -- we'll chalk up another victory for the healing of the soul.

October is the month I was attacked. October was hell from start to finish (not that I was aware of the finish; the last 9 days are missing from my memory).

Thirteen years ago.  13!  And I foolishly thought I was all better.  As in, all better. Felt great, was productive, reconnecting with some old friends, being brave. Daring even. Creative. Active.

I taught a class for three weeks on Palestine! And it went very well. My brain worked. I worked. It was tremendous to have Palestinian friends here last week. Their resilience and sense of hope had me feeling so strong I actually wanted to talk my psychiatrist into letting me go over there. Their resilience and sense of hope is jaw-dropping amazing.

"Every time we get angry, we start a new project," Mitri explained.  "You must be very angry," said an observer of the dozens of projects that have been initiated by Christmas Lutheran Church in - where else - Bethlehem (Palestine, not Pennsylvania). They are setting things on their head. It is a wonder!

It was inspiring and the trauma of their lives did not trigger any of my old junk.

But today did. Meeting two brave and kind people -- one Israeli and one Palestinian -- who each have had children killed by snipers or soldiers from "the other's side," undid me. Why?

They told the truth. Together. They told the truth. All of it. Unvarnished. Ugly. The horror of the occupation.

It is ugly. Bassam has a terrible terrible, tragic story to tell. The Israeli occupation of Palestine is cruel and a living hell. And it frankly isn't good for the Israeli's either. Robi's story is also tragic. Terrible. At the end of the day, a parent's tears are a parent's tears. No difference, Israeli or Palestinian. And so together they tell their stories and work for reconciliation. It is a beautiful gift they give the world, but at far too high a price. We are not worthy.

Bassam was very blunt about the reality of their life. "Palestinian children don't have to be taught to hate," said Bassam, an Arab from the West Bank. "They see it modeled from their earliest childhood by the Israeli's."

Not by their own parents. But by their enemies. They learn hate from being hated. "I was robbed of my childhood. It started at the beginning." 

Now,this is the astonishing part. He stood and told us his story, including this part, while Robi, a very powerful Israeli woman, who, if she didn't like something would say so in no uncertain terms! and STOP IT, stood inches from his shoulder. And she sighed in agreement.

WHAT???  As I listened to him, I watched her. And wondered, how unbelievably uncomfortable is she now?  To stand by as he tells us what I also know to be true about life in the Territories.  And so, I asked her privately afterward what it feels like for her, day after day, to stand by Bassam as he tells the honest truth of the horrific conditions of occupation. Doesn't it sting?  Isn't she angry? He's saying this about 'her' people.

"It is the truth," she said simply. "We have to tell the truth." About who we are. And "we have to hear it."  Even when it implicates us.  Especially as it implicates us.

And that is when I fell apart. Telling the truth.  Is. No. Small. Matter.  Nor is having to hear it.  I never got that. Will likely never get it. Not from this institution. It is far more impervious, nonporous to the winds of Spirit than the broken hearts of middle eastern parents. They know that truth makes you free.

Ironically, the people who 'own' that text as one of their own don't get it. The Jew and the Muslim do. The Israeli and the Arab get it. But not the former bishop of my church. Or his associates. Or the other folks, laity, for whom it is inconvenient.   (I know, I'm starting to sound like I'm whining, but, well, read the Psalms, for starters. And then think about this. This very event today, the one I'm describing. Is it SO hard?  Yes. But they know how healing it is.)

I felt ripped open. All my own trauma bled out and I was back in a room with a slick liar and pile of slander, cruelty, and basic stupid incompetence (or uncaring).  Poor Robi. What a woman. She was beyond kind, compassionate. Sat me down. Reminded me that making peace with the awful, evil experience I had did not also require of me to forgive. "If anyone says that to you, they're immoral."

I have to make peace with the reality that I will never see justice.  And certainly, revenge is not even in the realm of this universe. I thought I had made that peace.

But, oh, shit. I haven't. I so want the truth to come out.

Even Palestinians and Israeli's can do that:   tell it, to and about and in front of one another. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the one miracle that prevented a bloodbath after the end of Apartheid in South Africa. And it is desperately needed, still, in Poland, where history is an open wound, festering, preventing progress.

But in that church?  with my former bishop?  his staff? And church members?
No way, Jose. They lie and slander me to this day.

I've told this truth before. On another blog. I wrote about it. So some know. But not the folks closest to the perpetrators. Not the vulnerable. And I did not speak my truth in the presence (nor to my knowledge, to the knowledge) of the perpetrators. They refuse to listen.

So I read the Psalms.  Out loud. Loud. "Find yourself in the Bible," Dave quipped, quoting an old book we'd read.  I read Psalm 94, (vss. 8 ff),

"Understand, O dullest of the people;" (names omitted to protect the guilty, I guess),   "fools, when will you be wise?  He who planted the ear, does he not hear?  He who formed the eye, does he not see?"   You think you get away with your deceit?  Your wickedness? There are no secrets here.

This was cathartic:  'he sent among them swarms of flies, which devoured them, and frogs, which destroyed them..."  It gets worse. God gets pissed. Very. God does get good and pissed off at injustice. By whomever.

That is somehow just good to see. I don't wish people ill. I just want the truth. God will somehow take care of justice.  (I do think frogs would be a good touch, swarms of frogs, horned toads, slimy, croaking all night, overwhelming flotillas of frogs floating through their lives...alas).  God will take care of justice. If frogs are involved, it's fine with me.

Also, Psalm 109 is nice, in a not at all nice sort of way:  "For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,  speaking against me with lying tongues. They beset me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. In return for my love they accuse me -- even while I make prayer for them! So they return me evil for good, and hatred for my love."  And whipping a rather dull - oh, again, guy into such a frenzy he thinks he needs to attack me on their behalf. I never hated him. He was only the weapon the others were wielding, controlling. He was a victim of their propaganda too. I couldn't press charges. Make him their fall-guy.    

Yep. This's it. The poet is repeating my rhyme. Or I his.  And both of us: a slice of the story of Jesus. He did die. I only felt like it.  __And apparently, at times, still do.

As the song goes,  "This is my story..."  - this Psalm, so far. That's what happened. It must happen a lot. We are a screwy motley bunch.   (And also brilliant, amazing, wonderful!  How do we move on from our hates?)

Then the poet gets totally frank with God. "Wipe them in the own curses! Wrap it around them like a belt! May they be wrapped in their own shame like a mantle...clothed themselves with dishonor..."      Note to reader: the poet is NOT ready to move on, reclaim his higher self.  "Wrap them in their own..."

Would that please me?  I suppose it would. But I'm not asking. Only for respect, dignity, the dignity of telling my truth to the assembly of the involved. But even for that, that bit of justice, I have given up hope. Things are too entrenched. They go blithely on.

As my friend reminds me, however, "Well, they do have to live with themselves." So true. And if they are too dull and foolish to 'get' this, then they are missing out on a lot of the good stuff, too.

Read the Psalms, especially the parts we left out of the prayer books and hymnals because they were 'too much, too harsh' for the laity. Oh, I think we'd all do well to have the entirety of this gift. It is truth. And truth-telling sets us free.

Read the Psalms. They are for reading aloud, with feeling. Ask Dave. He heard them today. The anger, fury, heartbreak.   I ranted today. About the insolent. The ruffians, the slanderers. The poet is in pain.  If he or she can wail, I figure I can. Especially if I'm quoting.  So. Good catharsis.

And so it is. Good literature is good catharsis. Whaddaya know.

Moreso, is truth.

Steer into the wind.