thank goodness for thermodynamics on a 100° (Fahrenheit) day English Black Iced-Tea from a well-insulated travel tumbler slips cooly over teeth and tongue focusing its attention as it slows to turn downward in diminishing degrees to rest and radiate its reminder soon enough all will be frozen and it is far more difficult to reverse that process Huzzah! Hot Bang! so I wait a bit before another sip as I regulate the weather through my Super-Power in weather such as this I’m a human heatsink may those down-weather appreciate this task as I give thanks for folks up-weather who did their tea-drinking best to have it be only 100° F here in the midst of back-patting the air conditioner kicked in putting much more heat into the already heat than my little cooler could ever match look out neighbors I'm passing on more than I received many times this blesses but not this time prepare for a low-grade fever
Last week I started a bit of flap by advocating for a personnel directory within a business I am associated with. It became clear – there won’t soon be a change of policy. It came down to restricting contact information to protect women who had experienced stalkers or other sexual harassment – a very high value. For me, an equally high value is open communication channels within an institution that tends toward the hierarchical. So far, we have not found a balance between individual and systemic “rights.” In some ways, the “rights” lens keeps us from managing difficult situations. This places decisions within the limits of an either/or choice.
What I found most interesting was a comment that suggested my concern for community conversation was received as being against women’s protection and thus revealed a privileged position.
I don’t think there is any question that I carry both conscious and unconscious privilege wherever I go. The obvious ones are being white and male. They are well-attested. This leads me to wonder about my accusations of privilege directed toward others.
I can account for at least three different faces of privilege that may call that popular term into question. Its current use is as a variant on original sin supposedly residing within each of us. Looked at more carefully, it is not so much a matter of privilege qua privilege, but the contesting of one right against another. The result is that whoever gets the blame of “privilege” in first has the advantage. It cannot be countered in the same conversation wherein it arose.
In some areas, I have particularly “activated privilege” I can wield to my benefit as well as intentionally use for another’s benefit. This is quite conscious and keeps privilege alive as a category deemed helpful when so used. There are, of course, still some unconscious uses of it in the simple act of helping.
In other areas, I have “envious privilege” and will raise it to foster and resist the ways I see others applying their privilege against my “right.” To recognize another’s privilege is to give up what opportunity I have to simply raise questions or take a more direct action. I have to work through my reactive nature before finding a helpful act to clarify the issue beyond using “privilege” as a privileged word.
In yet other areas, the mystery of “humbled privilege” addresses the wrinkles of life without the support of this claim of authority. In a moment, a larger perspective is opened to reveal a spacious, longer-termed educational tack available in the storms of life. As long as I engage privilege as a point of judgment, I am constrained to its boundaries.
No matter how I schematize Privilege, may my original privilege find the mercy it needs to get unstuck from its beneficial blindness.
is well in order
too many long days
too many short nights
not only in order
nigh unto necessary
- - - - - - -
staggers are already here
no overcoming in sight
now I lay me down
perchance to dream
- - - - - - -
for another who
who calls out warning
without hope of hearing
- - - - - - -
I’m hearing one
like a medical diagnosis
cries are everywhere
now that we know
I cannot sleep
for now I know
- - - - - - -
all cries in one
one cry in all
in time and out
in finally hearing
I know my own
I saw a reference to “moral inclusion,” but it was vague enough that I am free to see where such might lead. Usually, I would investigate an intriguing phrase before riffing on it. In this case, I’m presuming to be in a pretest phase, to be followed by further inquiry and another test to see how solidly it has lodged in my vocabulary and behavior.
Generally, I am averse to morals of any kind – they tend toward particulars of social control that reveal a point of social stuckness only dislodgeable by an earthquake called a revolution. Morals are aphorisms, well-phrased nuggets that pose as a cosmic or final answer, stopping further inquiry. Without regard to contextual circumstances, morals attempt to set out eternally valid limits within human relationships. By the time a moral is elucidated, it has carved out a huge chunk of life and set it aside from further consideration. Morals are generally exclusive.
When viewed through the above lens, “moral inclusion” approaches a paradox or oxymoron. These techniques have the value of calling attention to a tension that cannot be quickly resolved by an answer but calls for a series of responses.
I currently view “moral inclusion” as a way to set one moral code alongside a different moral code to see where such a conversation might go. It would seem to have some connection with the creative silence of a Religious Society of Friends meeting awaiting a resolution of the fallacy of an excluded middle or a clarification that the current circumstance is better resolved with one or the other habitual construction.
“Moral inclusion” seems to invite in more than is avoided by a system of morality. “Moral inclusion” might be considered an essential component in redeeming theological tautologies.
IIn reading a translation of a Gospel According to Mark by Rhoads, Dewey, and Michie, I heard some of Chapter 10 in this fashion —
Jesus has just freed children from cages overseen by those learning to be guided by his way. And putting his arms around them, laying his hands on them, he was blessing them all.
And as Jesus was setting out on a next way, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit life eternal?”
He hadn’t heard Greg Brown’s song, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” which won’t be composed for another 2,000 years – “This longing for an afterlife has damn near wrecked this place.” And Jesus began, “Why do you call me ‘Good’? No one is good when they are separated. You know the tradition of moral values: Don’t murder, act adulterously, steal, lie, or defraud, and honor your mother and father.”
The man affirmed to Jesus, “All these I have kept in youth and since.”
Intently, Jesus gazed upon the man, loving him, and saying, “You lack only one assurance. Go, sell whatever you have – set the past free. Go, give to the poor – invest in their tomorrow. And heaven will be revealed in that day – your New Day. And wherever you are, you will find my arms around you, too.
And the man left sorrowing – dejected and still caged for he had the best property.
Looking around, Jesus said to those practicing a way of mercy, “How hard it is for those who possess possessions to enter a Living Day.”
Those hearing this were amazed and befuddled.
Jesus continued, “Children in need of release, enact intention as you enter this day. Anticipate the receiving and giving of mercy. It is easier to thread a camel through a needle than for someone possessed by possessions to enter the heaven of a New Day.”
They were stunned to silence and to muttering, “Then what can be relied on to measure worth?”
Intently, Jesus gazed upon them, loved them, and said, “What was impossible yesterday will not be impossible forever, for everything is possible in a New Day.”
– – – – – – –
G*D still has its place as a marker of presence larger than can be articulated. It also carries unhelpful images along with it that limit its usefulness. In this instance, G*D has been translated as “New Day.” Thought?
trace power’s potential
through competing visions
winnow kernel from chaff
accumulate a mass of nobodies
in the wrong time at the right place
announce a new standard
expanding a shared journey
beyond empiric power
within volunteered wilderness
redeem Bethlehem’s dynasty
release Egypt’s painted tombs
come a long way home
to Nazareth’s anonymity
glimpse Jordan’s other side
milk and honey and fig and vine
enough for all
when all means all
why settle for sequential power brokers
a next creation
my body my blood
claimed and given
and quite enough
Chapter 9 of the Gospel According to Mark finds Jesus returned from a mountain top experience embodying Moses and Elijah. While there, his inner circle fixated on life after death. It was as if they had never seen Moses and Elijah in the life of Jesus (and you and me). Returned to another conflict, Jesus orders a turbulence from a young one.
When asked why the Jesus-lite weren’t able to be effective, the response was, “prayer” (paralleled with “ordered”).
The inner disruption, here, is identified as “deaf and mute.” It is helpful to browse back to Chapters 7 and 8 to revisit the stories of a deaf and mute foreigner and a blind homey. These make use of another element—spit. Attend to such links.
Prayer is not importuning or appeal to a third-party. Prayer grossly orders and spits. Acts of resistance are prayers. Bowed heads and holy tones are not acts of prayer. At best, these are some possible outer garments that vary from culture to culture and time to time.
Listening together and speaking together are acts of prayer that need no formalized patterning to authorize them as vehicles moving toward the healing of the nations and the honoring of lives, one by one and all together.
Prayer is not building chapels on the mountain or masking a desire to be top-leader. Prayer is an energetic engagement with ill-health, public or private. It requires as much energy as frothing at the mouth and going all in, even to death. Anything else sells a life short and prayer shorter. There is no time to avoid the listening and speaking needed for a community to thrive.
The all-too-common appeal for “thoughts and prayer” has no connection with reality, the act of prayer referred to by Jesus. Engagement includes the difficult work of analysis and strategy (additional acts worthy to be named “prayer”). Engagement that does not entail risk to self and others is not prayerful.
Prayer opens 8 more ways to reembody the past and inspire any tomorrow. Go ahead—spit out your prayer and follow where it goes.
only the most expensive grace can transcend its temptation to cheap moralism the longest of ladders hardest climbed to a top still holds a child’s joy when monkey swung returning to mother’s tongue frees compulsion’s insisting consistency one pure blood in a father’s land habitual choice is exploded love unconstrained by words overthrows politic politeness I’ll be hanged if I’ll be hanged for anything less than the most costly prisoned freedom is not mysterious only hard to remember when not tending roots
Eons ago, there came forth the gift of a byproduct—oxygen. All these untold years later, I am breathing oxygen in the air—enough to sit easy and not gasp. I can breathe oxygen directly. It does not need to be dissolved in water, as for those specialized to receive it through gills. I do not yet need oxygen to be concentrated in a tank or forced through a ventilator.
The gift of oxygen was here before I was. It is part of the background of items required for my successful arrival and continuing for a while. Unless Nestlé begins to market oxygen in the same way it has water, oxygen will be here long after I leave. A major question is about what else will be mixed in the air along with oxygen and whether such pollutants, not as a feature, will compromise my ability to process the gift of oxygen.
It is difficult to shift away from an economy that commodifies the basics of life such as water, oxygen, and shelter. It will be as troublesome to continue allowing companies the fiction of being a person. When capitalism is left to its own devices, playing G*D with who is privileged to receive its artificial medium of exchange and who is not, it sucks all the oxygen it can from the room and leaves most to flop about until dead. It will trickle out just enough to those critical to the means of production of more capital.
It is not a new choice—a gift economy or a market economy. Each decision I make will add strength to one or the other.
Take a next breath—a moment of thanks is in order—and then another. With each thankful breath, consider that we have enough and refrain from a next purchase. Eventually, we will need a drink, a meal. But more immediately, we need oxygen much more frequently than food or water. We live on air, as well as food and water, and through relationships with Nature and One Another. This is a sufficient miracle and worth freeing from the grasp of a dead (mostly) economy that it might be rebuilt on a human scale.
I’ve seen it said that the present is overdetermined by the past. One question – is there is any room left for the present to escape its determinants?
From the evidence of the splendor of one ordinary life, there does seem to be some slippage of attention upon the past – enough to open a wedge of space for some other word to sneak past the censors. Were this not true, I would be stuck with a bland midwest palate. Now there is hot sauce!
Evolutionary mutations seem to be a present adaption to the present setting, not a previous one. If such is the case, there may even be room for a tendril of a future state to pull and tug, beckon and call from a wider tomorrow.
There is a difficulty with a transcendent tomorrow—any purposeful intention regarding our present decision-making. Whether it is called a moral-arc or a Living G*D, whether working at the systemic or personal level, whether conscious or patterned, the very idea of “tomorrow” begins an overlay of a multiverse of options.
It is this overlay that brings a past (enumerated or imagined) into conversation with a present (controlled and controlling) and a future (potential and determined to seven generations). Along with this trinity are the infinite points between them. Taken together, we are both stuck and at loose ends. We are as indecisive as any theoretical cat until we dare look and risk losing information, we’ll never know if a next step will find us facing down an infectious grin or entering yowling fangs.
Whichever of multiple certainties we come to inhabit, there will yet be a question of our expectation of finding mercy or bringing mercy. If both are not part of our traveling kit and ready-at-hand, the odds are we will be overdetermined toward violence.