Monday, February 28, 2005

The Other "A" word

Abstinence is the next A word in our public discourse, right after and closely related to abortion. we're talking of course about abstinence from SEX. in many parts of the country abstinence is the only method touted in sex education classes in schools as protection against sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy. who could argue that preventing the transmission of stds and preventing unwanted pregnancies is bad? and who could disagree that abstinence is a sure-fire way to accomplish these ends?

so is the actual implementation of this idea having the intended effect? well no. it actually has the opposite effect.

from this article

Despite taking courses emphasizing abstinence-only themes, teenagers in 29 high schools became increasingly sexually active, mirroring the overall state trends, according to the study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University.

“We didn’t see any strong indications that these programs were having an impact in the direction desired,” said Dr. Buzz Pruitt, who directed the study.

The study was delivered to the Texas Department of State Health Services, which commissioned it.

The federal government is expected to spend about $130 million to fund programs advocating abstinence in 2005, despite a lack of evidence that they work, Pruitt said.


The study showed about 23 percent of ninth-grade girls, typically 13 to 14 years old, had sex before receiving abstinence education. After taking the course, 29 percent of the girls in the same group said they had had sex.

Boys in the tenth grade, about 14 to 15 years old, showed a more marked increase, from 24 percent to 39 percent, after receiving abstinence education.


and here is a bit of commentary in more robust language from mark morford


Of course teens are having sex anyway, in straight-up defiance of what they sense is pure governmental ignorance and outright lie. But the nasty catch is, as a direct result of these insidious programs -- programs that cannot, for example, contain any information about birth control or sensual awareness or moist philosophies of pleasure -- they're just doing it badly.

Which is to say, you want to virtually guarantee more unsafe sex and increased rates of teen pregnancy and more disrespect for the flesh and a tragic ignorance of all things sensual and delicious and naked in the world? You want more sullen teens and violent youth culture and a virulent 50-percent divorce rate among people who have no idea what good sex is really all about? Keep advocating those abstinence programs, senator.


so let's keep on throwing money down that rathole. yeah. that's a good idea. but not so good for the reality-based community. or really, bad for all of us. where is that republican demand that government-funded programs must show positive results?

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Confessions of a Recovering Homophobe

Rexroth's Daughter, one of the frequent commenters to this blog, and mistress of her own blog, asked for more details about how my views on gays and lesbians were turned around. I was one of your garden-variety closet homophobes. I was not a gay basher, I wished them well; my encounters with gays and lesbians were cordial when our paths crossed. Along the way, I was casually friendly with a couple of gay men, whom I found to be quite simpatico. Of course, they were in the closet; I knew they were gay, but we never talked about it. I felt a vague sort of disapproval, even though I liked them a lot. I saw them as having a kind of shadow hanging over them.

In August of 2003, as the Episcopal Church met at the 74th General Convention, the issue that took center stage was the vote on whether to consent to the consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. The people of the state had chosen Robinson, a homosexual, who was in a committed relationship with another man, to be their bishop. My bishop voted against giving consent to Robinson's consecration as bishop. The motion to give consent passed, and Gene Robinson was subsequently consecrated Bishop of New Hampshire. At the time, I agreed with my bishop's vote; non-celibate homosexuals should not be ordained bishops. I did not think homosexuals should be priests, unless they were committed to lifelong celibacy. However, I could not quite put aside the thought that the people of New Hampshire had chosen Robinson to be their bishop, and why shouldn't they have him?

As the controversy continued to swirl around, I decided to search out the references to homosexual behavior in the Bible. The source that I found most helpful was from the website of Loren L. Johns, a Mennonite. The Gospels, which, to me, are the heart of the Bible, are silent on the subject of homosexual practice. Either Jesus did not mention it, or the writers of the Gospel did not think it important enough to include in their accounts of his life and teachings.

After the convention, on the local level, there was a good bit of unrest, much argument back and forth, and I soon became uncomfortable with all the focus on the private sex life of Gene Robinson. It started to look prurient to me. Folks would say, "Do you realize what 'they' do?" I would answer, "No, I don't; do you know what Gene Robinson and his partner do? Have they told you in detail what they do?" None of the other bishops were subject to this kind of scrutiny of their private lives, so I thought that maybe we should just let Gene Robinson's private life remain private. It was none of my business. I don't know what he or anyone else does in private, and I don't want to know.

Think about this: it was not people who were in favor of the consecration of Gene Robinson who brought me over to their side by their persuasive arguments. The folks who basically agreed with me were the ones who pushed me to the other side. I was just really put off by their intrusiveness into the sex lives of consenting adults. I could not stand with them, so where did I go?

By the grace of God, and in a rather astonishing evolution - to me anyway - I have come to take a totally different view of gays and lesbians, not to see them as "other", but as human beings like me. In my own church, I see the contribution my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters make. I use the phrase "recovering homophobe", because I believe that long-held prejudices do not die easily.

When Gene Robinson's name is mentioned in the media, it is often, "Gene Robinson, the practicing homosexual bishop." The phrase "practicing homosexual" becomes an ever-present appendage to his name. I see it as an affront to me to have Robinson's sex life thrust upon me every time his name is mentioned. Our local diocesan newspaper not only used this phrase, but did not even bother to use Robinson's name. He was just "the practicing homosexual bishop of New Hampshire"; he who is not to be named, I suppose. I asked the editor of the newspaper either to refer to other bishops as "practicing heterosexuals", or to stop using the phrase with Robinson.

As to the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, I'll leave that between God and the Christian homosexuals to work out. I believe this: we are all sinners. I believe the church is for sinners, for the lost sheep. Jesus said in Luke 5:32, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

From The New York Times:

Leaders in the global Anglican communion have asked the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada to withdraw their representatives temporarily from a key governing body of the denomination, in an unprecedented move to avoid a schism over the American church's consecration of an openly gay man as a bishop and both churches' blessing of same-sex unions.

We'll see how that goes.

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Dynamics of Grace

Few things make us feel so strong, so powerful, as a good case of righteous indignation. Few joys are as great as the joy of being wronged.

On the other hand, few things leave us so open, so exposed, so humilitated as being loved. When love is given freely, made visible by another person's actions towards us...what could be more powerful or moving?

Her name was Mary. I knew her for years as a Friend and mother to boys, slightly older than myself. She wasn't a deep thinker or a big talker. She didn't care to talk much about her reasons. She simply cared for those along the way who were hers to care for.

Mary's parents had died when she was a young girl. She'd been raised by a passel of older siblings, aunts and uncles all with a combination of drinking and heart problems. Sometimes they raised her, sometimes she raised them.

When Mary died at all too young an age, she left behind a husband and two sons, all grief stricken, but relieved that her wracked body was finally out of pain. She also left behind a community of people whose lives she touched in little ways, little but profound.

When I make lunches for my children, who are now clearly old enough to do this for themselves, I often think of Mary. Its because of her I still make their lunches. --Her older boy at 17 had been old enough to make lunch for himself, and he had a summer job working across the street from their house, but there was Mary in the kitchen, making the kid his lunch. Surely he was old enough to do this for himself. Surely at 17 he ought to be learning responsiblity?

Joe (we'll call him that) was on his way to becoming a carpenter, a dime a dozen framer for the union was his goal. Mary looked at her son and saw him for what he was, one in a billion, one alone in all the world. She cherished him, but she knew that chances were good the world wouldn't see him for what he was. "I want him always to know and remember that someone loved him enough to make him his lunch, to know that he was that special that I wanted to do that for him."

That was the gift Mary gave to me.

On Saturday after an afternoon of cross country skiing, my children and some friends were squirreled away upstairs. I'd made them cocoa for after the ski. They were already up, playing cards by the time it was ready. Surely they could come down and get it themselves? But then I remembered Mary and thought, I'd like them to know, without even noticing that it was anything at all, that they are loved enough for someone to bring them something nice, just because they are so loved.

And I realized then, as I do very often, that it's thanks to some one else's love that I have that gift in my heart to give. It came from Mary, it came from God, it came from the gift of creation itself. I don't need to name it grace, but that's what it is, and I'm grateful to feel these things, to know them, from the inside.

And you. Do you see it moving that way in your life? Where do you see it? How does it pour out of you? These are hard things to talk about, opening ourselves that way. This isn't nearly such heavy lifting as discerning the origin and possible meaning of the galaxy. Still, in light of the question of beginings, here's an opportunity to consider what acts of love freely given we've accepted and passed along, and to ponder their origin, possibly from one great gift that loved us all into being just exactly as we are. And to ponder all of that, this is just an invitation to try...

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Where we live

The desktop of my computer displays an image called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. It is a photograph of a patch of sky, empty to the naked eye, that could be covered by a pencil eraser held at arm's length. It was produced by the Hubble Space Telescope, which is named for Edwin Hubble, the man who discovered the universe. Really. (Although he had lots of help).

The photo looks back in time 12 billion years. It contains thousands of galaxies, each consisting of 100 billion stars or more. Here's what this and other pictures and various kinds of evidence tell us.

There was a moment of creation, not perhaps of everything that is, but of everything that we can see. Everything in the observable universe, hundreds of billions of galaxies of hundreds of billions of stars, including our own, and all of space, occupied a volume the size of a single atom. (Maybe at one time it was even smaller than that, even infinitely hot and infinitely dense, but our mathematics won't allow us to look back that far.) Space started to expand. Over hundreds of millions of years the universe cooled enough that matter could condense out of energy, and atoms of hydrogen and helium could form. The universe became transparent to electromagnetic radiation, and the remnant of that moment, the so-called cosmic background radiation, is still observable today. Tiny ripples in the fabric of space created slightly denser than average regions, into which gravity pulled surrounding matter. Galaxies condensed out of the cosmic gas, and stars condensed out of the galaxies. In the first generation of stars, heavier elements were formed. Some of these stars ultimately exploded, expelling heavy elements out into the galaxies, so that as subsequent generations of stars condensed from the resulting gas clouds, planetary systems containing heavier elements formed around them.

Our own planet formed about 4 1/2 billion years ago. For the first billion and a half years or so it was largely molten, and under constant bombardment from meteors. Once it even got clobbered by another planet-sized object, knocking off a hunk of matter that formed the moon. But around 3 billion years ago, the earth was cool enough that stable complex chemical compounds could form on or near the surface. I'll want to talk about evolution later, but that's how we got here, 3 billion years later.

Now look back out into space. There is our star, one of 200 billion in our galaxy, which is 100,000 light years across. (Some people think there are 400 billion stars in our galaxy.) There is the local group of a few dozen galaxies bound together by gravity. Then there are something like 200 billion more galaxies within the volume of space that we can see. (The universe could be larger than what we can observe, but is not necessarily infinite. As space has expanded faster than the speed of light, there are probably regions of space whose light has not yet reached us. While it is true that nothing can travel faster than light, the expansion of space has nothing to do with motion.)

From our point of view, but from no other possible point of view, one of the most interesting facts about this universe is that it is utterly indifferent to our existence or our fate. If the earth were to be destroyed tomorrow, it would be of less importance to the universe than destroying a single grain of sand would be to all the beaches and ocean bottoms of the earth. Indeed, billions of planets are destroyed every day in cosmic cataclysms. Undoubtedly, many of them harbor life.

We matter only to ourselves. We know this because we have discovered it with our own senses, and our own reason. We know far more than the people who contemplated the cosmos thousands of years ago and made up stories to explain its mysteries. We will continue to learn, and perhaps one day we will even overturn some part of the story I have just told. But this quest for discovery is what gives our existence meaning -- only to us, to be sure, but that will have to be enough.

Monday, February 21, 2005

"Queerly Beloved"

Posted by Hello

so begins cultural icon homer simpson as he officiates to marry two lesbians. and marge says "just because you're lesbians doesn't mean you are less beings."

any of you who noticed the post over at dharma bums featuring our friends Tara and Nickie (go read about them, Tara tells a love story) have caught on to my opinion on the gay marriage issue. i want my friends to have the benefits of marriage. i came to this position like many people do. i have family and friends i like. i found out that some of them are homosexual. back in 1954 when i was in 7th grade, one of my much older cousins started bringing his partner to the standard extended family gatherings, thanksgiving and christmas. jim became a valued part of our family. even after my cousin died Jim spent those holidays with us because he was family, and did so until he moved back to arkansas to be near his blood family.

i don't remember ever even thinking about gayness in high school or college. i don't remember thinking about it for many years after that. there were campy people, such as liberace. they were funny. somewhere in the middle of my life i caught on that some of my friends, or acquaintances, or work colleagues were gay. i didn't care. i don't care. i have friends. some are straight and some are gay.

there is a controversy of sorts about whether gayness is genetically determined or a choice we make. all i know for sure is that i don't remember making that choice. i don't care how people get where they are about it. born that way or decided to be, so what?

for those of you who claim to follow a biblical injunction against homosexuality, i can't resist asking---isn't one of the main citations on that in leviticus? not far from the injunction against eating shellfish? and another rule against mixing flax and wool for garments? consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, eh? a view of the bible as literal and inerrant requires stepping over stunning contradictions and alternate versions of reality. you're welcome to your opinion about morality. don't invite gay people to your house. your bible isn't public law. get over it.

about the gay agenda; there isn't one. what could andrew sullivan and alan ginsberg agree on, other than sex. is there a heterosexual agenda? i don't think so. do ted kennedy and john mccain agree on this week's talking points?

Spreading Compassion Around

Since I finished reading Jane Meyer's "Outsourcing Torture" in The New Yorker, it's been much on my mind. I knew we were outsourcing jobs, but I did not know that the job of torturer was being outsourced. The term for handing over "illegal enemy combatants" to countries in which torture is not illegal is "extraordinary rendition". The label serves to obfuscate and dehumanize the policy. The people are "rendered" to foreign countries for aggressive questioning of the kind that our laws do not allow. At least some agents of the CIA and FBI believe that this type of interrogation does not produce valuable information.

Again, the illegal enemy combatants are held without review, the same policy tried at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, which our courts have said cannot be done. Hundreds have been released from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Were these people innocents, mistakenly rounded up? Did we release terrorists? We don't know.

According to Meyer, the people who have been rendered can likely never be tried in court, because the way they were treated would "shock the conscience" of the court, and the cases would be dismissed. We have detainees in various countries in a kind of limbo, with seemingly no way out. Do we hold them until they die? Does our government believe that outsourcing torture relieves them of responsibility?

On Feb. 15, 2005, David Savage of The Los Angeles Times, had a story about the Bush administration fighting in court to keep US pilots, who were tortured by Iraqis during the first Gulf War, from being compensated. Iraqis who were tortured by the US military in the Iraq War are entitled to compensation, but our own pilots are not, because Iraq is now a friendly country. As Savage says, "The case abounds with ironies. It pits the U.S. government against its own war heroes and the Geneva Conventions." Indeed!

According to Douglas Jehl of The New York Times, Feb. 16, 2005, the CIA is looking for a way out of holding and questioning terrorist leaders. The Bush administration seems to be backing away from its legal opinions about aggressive questioning, leaving the CIA hanging out to dry. Both Alberto Gonzales, our new Attorney General, and Michael Chertoff, our new Homeland Security chief , "suggested in their confirmation hearings that others may have played a greater role in deciding how interrogations would be conducted." The government wants the FBI to take over responsibility, but the FBI wants none of it. Again, who is responsibile here?

It's my country doing these deeds. I make the mistake of thinking that I've reached the limits of outrage, but all these stories within a few days provide correction. Can't the leaders of our country not only declare torture wrong, but then stop doing it?

The Collect for the second Sunday of Lent from The Book of Common Prayer:

"O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever."

Friday, February 18, 2005

Friends of Vincent

So you're walking down Race Street, and the fellow on the steam grate looks up at you. He's been sitting there all morning. It's about 26 degrees out. You have the feeling there should be icicles hanging from his beard. You're reasonably sure this guy has got some pretty bad habits, and he knows you're a soft touch for money: he can see it in your eyes--you look at him. You actually see him, see him as himself, as the person you might be yourself if things were a little different.

His name is Vincent. Everybody knows he's Vincent. He's made a point to tell us through the years. He's one of the few who's managed to hold out inspite of the crackdown on street people in Center City. Nobody wants to see homeless people, trashing up the streets.

Will you feed Vincent? Take him over to the cart and buy him a cup of joe, or a ham and egg sandwich? Will you give him a dollar and try not to think about where it's going? Will you give him a card with the phone number of a nearby community counselling center? Will you dig out the scrip the city is selling, something you can give to a homeless person which they can exchange at one of the area soup kitchens? Do you wish him well, say a silent prayer and keep on walking?

I know what the compassionate establishment line is on all of this: Give him the Scrip.

I know what my protective father's line has always been on all of this: Don't talk to strangers.

I know what my street-wise husband's line is on this: The guy's a hustler, that's his line of work. If he gets lucky with you, then that's one less half hour he needs to sit there, doing his job.

I know what my inner-teacher tells me: If a man asks you to walk one mile, walk with him two.

So I do something. Somedays I buy him the joe. Some days I just say hello. Some days I know it takes more out of me to turn away than it takes from him to ask, so I give him a dime or a quarter or a dollar, and I ask him to say a prayer for me.

Is it enough? You tell me.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


People often say that human life is infinitely precious, or that it is impossible to place a value on human life, or that human life cannot be valued in money.Of course they don’t really mean it. It is true that as a society we expend enormous resources on desperately ill people, so long as there is hope of extending their lives. We have no qualms about spending thousands of dollars a day for patients in intensive care, half a million dollars on heart transplants, millions of dollars over decades to keep people with severe brain damage alive, even when they cannot move or communicate. The state of Florida even passed a special law just to keep one such woman alive, even though her husband wishes to end her life, if that’s what it is, and believes that she would want the same thing.

According to a report called The State of the World's Children, 2005, issued recently by the United Nations Children's Fund, about 29,000 children under five die every day from readily preventable causes -- diarrhea, malaria, measles -- which are almost unheard of as causes of child death in the wealthy countries. Most of these children could be saved by mosquito netting worth a few dollars, a vaccination that costs $2.50, drilling a well in their village -- the price of coffee and a doughnut for each child’s life saved. So, what is the value of human life?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Community Values

i worked yesterday for almost 8 hours disassembling, moving, and reassembling steel trusses that are the framework for a substantial building. there was not a single piece that one person could lift alone. heavy pieces of steel were unbolted, stacked on a trailer, unstacked and rebolted, flat on the ground one truss atop the previous, with wood blocks between, ready for the crane to lift them into place. there is always the possibility for minor and major injuries and breakage in such work. a 200 pound steel beam slipping and falling 2 inches can really hurt a finger or toe.

there is a pool of people who volunteer their time and labor to the local boat school, a non-profit trade school. i do it because the school teaches traditional wooden boatbuilding, and i am an old carpenter. i worked with four other men. this is only the second time i have given a day thusly, as i am newly moved here, so i don't really know much about anyone yet. we showed up ready to work, pretty much on time. after all, we are volunteers and i might have been the youngest at 62. the work we did required that everyone stayed aware of everyone else at all times for safety. also that 3 or 4 of us at all times cooperated moving or assembling heavy things.

No one was injured. no harsh words spoken. nothing was accomplished without careful attention to each other and to the work at hand. so much care does not leave much room for conversation, but a surprising amount of communication goes on with someone on the other end of a steel beam, or with the guy holding up something heavy while your hands are underneath it putting a bolt on a nut. we smiled all day. we had lunch together and learned a bit about each other. three of these volunteers have done this for several years. one of them is a grandfather and was in the us navy for 30 years. two of us are new.

i know nothing of their politics or religious life. they know nothing of mine. i do know that they gave freely of themselves for what i assume we each consider a common good of some sort. i do know that they are courteous and good-natured. i think it safe to guess that there are differences of opinion about politics or faith; that we may see our impulse to volunteer from differing perspectives; that we may see common good from from a range of philosophical bases. i cannot conceive of any one of them condemning me for being a liberal atheist. i feel confident that we will, as we become more acquainted, agree or disagree on such difficult issues as abortion without losing respect for each other and that we will continue to work together.

it is a leap of sorts to use this as a metaphor for shared work on a non-physical project such as public policy, but all shared endeavors require individuals to carry a portion of the load without coasting or pushing. We work together toward a specific goal knowing that we may have disagreements about other things, or even about the reasons each of us comes to work on a particular project. Working together gives a basis for respect so that we can begin the hard discussions.

did i mention that those truss pieces are heavy?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Where I'm Coming From

"Ah, love, let us be true to one another!"

Beautiful! Thank you, Matthew Arnold.

The enlightenment and science have indeed shaken the foundation of religious faith for many, but not for all. I have the greatest admiration and respect for those like Cervantes and Dread Pirate Roberts, who have formed a strong moral and ethical core within themselves without the aid of religious faith. In a sense, you could say that both are stronger than I. I don't know if I could have done that on my own.

My moral core comes from The Bible, with the central focus on the Jesus of the Gospels, who is the model for me as to how to live my life. Jesus has his roots very much in the Old Testament, therefore, I am eternally grateful to the Jews for preserving these books for us. There can be no real understanding of Jesus Christ without attention to his roots in Judaism. So it is, that the Old Testament stories and songs, and the prophets are another major source of strength and inspiration to me.

My hope is that the four of us can have a respectful dialog on the happenings of the day, and that we may find that we have much more in common than we may now know. We hope others out there will join in. The God I worship is the God of love, and forgiveness, and mercy, and justice. Cervantes and Dread Pirate Roberts are already, to me, godly men. Guys, I hope this does not offend you. I mean it as a compliment.

My blog name is Latin for, literally, "mistress of the household," named "Grace".

materfamilias gratia

Monday, February 14, 2005

At the Wellhead

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world

So if the Sea of Faith is receding, then one might ask : have you felt God's presence laying like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd? The question is rightly asked day upon day, hour to hour, breath to breath.

What are the conditions which open one to a sense of God's presence? My experience is that the Spirit is alive and flowing among us when we are compassionate to each other, to our earth, to our selves.

What blocks my eyes from seeing, my ears from hearing?--A lack of compassion, lack of imagination for how another could be me, is me, and ultimately a lack of love for my full self.

When our eyes are open to each other, when we can look on each other with the tender heart that utters "Ah love, let us be true to one another..." then we are turning back the tide, and ultimately standing up against the ignorant armies which clash in the night.

Here's a different poem, describing what happens when we have the ears and eyes and voice of compassion, working through us:

At the Wellhead

Your songs, when you sing them with your two eyes closed
As you always do, are like a local road
We've known every turn of in the past--
That midge-veiled, high-hedged side-road where you
Looking and listening until a car
Would come and go and leave you lonelier
Than you had been to begin with. So, sing on,
Dear shut-eyed one, dear far-voiced veteran,
Sing yourself to where the singing comes from,
Ardent and cut off like our blind neighbor
Who plays the piano all day in her bedroom.
Her notes came out to us like hosited water
Ravelling off a bucket at the wellhead
Where next thing we'd be listening, hushed and awkward.

That blind-from -birth, sweet-voiced, withdrawn
Was like a silver vein in heavy clay.
Night water glittering in the light of day.
But also just our neighbor, Rosie Keenan.
She touched our cheeks. She let us touch her braille
In books like books wallpaper patterns came in.
Her hands were active and her eyes were full
Of open darkness and a watery shine.

She knew us by our voices. She'd say she "saw"
Whoever or whatever. Being with her
Was intimate and helpful, like a cure
You didn't notcie happening. When I read
A poem with Keenan's well in it, she said,
"I can see the sky at the bottom of it now."

~Seamus Heaney, The Spirit Level

And who is to say Rosie Keenan isn't an image of God?-- being intimate and helpful, working a cure you "didn't notice happening," knowing each person by their voice, and able to make the blind ( overtly herself, but also us) to see.

Mind you, it's in the interaction between the narrator and Rosie Keenan that she comes to see. I believe it is in our interest and interaction with the world that we come to see and to be agents of God.

It seems to me that where we stand may be Dover Beach, but it is also, surely, Holy Ground, a wellhead for healing, that may lead us to see stars in the bottom of the well of our sorrows.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Dover Beach

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; -on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch'd land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

ByMatthew Arnold

Friday, February 11, 2005

In the Beginning

Welcome. Come on in and sit around the cosmic bonfire. Warm your hands and we'll talk about life. What do you know for sure? How do you know? I like reason and science. I do feel a mystery about awareness, about reality, but not in the way of a personal god or even an impersonal one. But so what? As Lyndon Johnson said (maybe) "don't spit in the soup, we all have to eat it." There are real problems to overcome and we had better get cracking here and work out some differences that are taking attention away from them. We have war, famine, pestilence, and death. The biggies. The longest journey starts with a single step. What shall it be? Let's take a small one to get our balance. What virtues can we agree to? How can we implement them?