The Wandering Desert Monk

The Wandering Desert Monk

Friday, September 30, 2011

Back to Seattle -

Just got an invite for a repeat appearance by the Ernest Becker Foundation. I was there in July for a conference, now going to another one in about  3 weeks. If any of you are nearby come and join the conversation.

I will be talking about Christian Fundamentalism: Roots of Denial about Global Warming?

(It is a question because not all agree on the premise.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

The problem with People-Pleasing

“For as long as you can remember, you have been a pleaser, depending on others to give you an identity. You need not look at that only in a negative way. You wanted to give your heart to others, and you did so quickly and easily. But now you are being asked to let go of all these self-made props and trust that God is enough for you. You must stop being a pleaser and reclaim your identity as a free self.”

- Henri Nouwen


In the 12 step program, we talk about "people-pleasing" as a character defect. Because it is socially acceptable to be a people-pleaser many people do not see this as an issue which causes them to stumble in their sobriety and sanity. As a people-pleaser I recognize both the fault and the consequences.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Henri Nouwen on Prayer

Praying is no easy matter. It demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person, to see there what you would rather leave in darkness, and to touch there what you would rather leave untouched.
Henri Nouwen

Thursday, September 15, 2011

John Donne on Death

When one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language.
John Donne

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A world without Muslims

Yes, lets imagine a world WITHOUT MUSLIMS, shall we?
Without Muslims you wouldn’t have:
  • Coffee
  • Cameras
  • Experimental Physics
  • Chess
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Perfume/spirits
  • Irrigation
  • Crank-shaft, internal combustion engine, valves, pistons
  • Combination locks
  • Architectural innovation (pointed arch -European Gothic cathedrals adopted this technique as it made the building much stronger, rose windows, dome buildings, round towers, etc.)
  • Surgical instruments
  • Anesthesia
  • Windmill
  • Treatment of Cowpox
  • Fountain pen
  • Numbering system
  • Algebra/Trigonometry
  • Modern Cryptology
  • 3 course meal (soup, meat/fish, fruit/nuts)
  • Crystal glasses
  • Carpets
  • Checks
  • Gardens used for beauty and meditation instead of for herbs and kitchen.
  • University
  • Optics
  • Music
  • Toothbrush
  • Hospitals
  • Bathing
  • Quilting
  • Mariner’s Compass
  • Soft drinks
  • Pendulum
  • Braille
  • Cosmetics
  • Plastic surgery
  • Calligraphy
  • Manufacturing of paper and cloth
It was a Muslim who realized that light ENTERS our eyes, unlike the Greeks who thought we EMITTED rays, and so invented a camera from this discovery.
It was a Muslim who first tried to FLY in 852, even though it is the Wright Brothers who have taken the credit.
It was a Muslim by the name of Jabir ibn Hayyan who was known as the founder of modern Chemistry. He transformed alchemy into chemistry. He invented: distillation, purification, oxidation, evaporation, and filtration. He also discovered sulfuric and nitric acid.
It is a Muslim, by the name of Al-Jazari who is known as the father of robotics.
It was a Muslim who was the architect for Henry V’s castle.
It was a Muslim who invented hollow needles to suck cataracts from eyes, a technique still used today.
It was a Muslim who actually discovered inoculation, not Jenner and Pasteur to treat cowpox. The West just brought it over from Turkey
It was Muslims who contributed much to mathematics like Algebra and Trigonometry, which was imported over to Europe 300 years later to Fibonnaci and the rest.
It was Muslims who discovered that the Earth was round 500 years before Galileo did.
The list goes on………..

Just imagine a world without Muslims. Now I think you probably meant, JUST IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT TERRORISTS. And then I would agree, the world would definitely be a better place without those pieces of filth. But to hold a whole group responsible for the actions of a few is ignorant and racist. No one would ever expect Christians or White people to be held responsible for the acts of Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma bombing) or Andreas Brevik (Norway killing), or the gun man that shot Congresswoman Giffords in head, wounded 12 and killed 6 people, and rightly so because they had nothing to do with those incidents! Just like the rest of the 1.5 billion Muslims have nothing to do with this incident!
We are going to spend part of our day (9-11-11) with an Afghani Muslim family celebrating the welcome of some new family members who arrived this week.

Sunday Baroque for 9-11

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9-11 reflections - 10 years later

This is the weekend, America is taking a moment to think about the events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Here are my thoughts:

1. America lost its innocence. Until the fateful events of 10 years ago, most Americans lived in a world in which they believed terrorism was something that would never happen on their soil. Of course, most of the world had already lost its innocence many years earlier. Personally, as a member of a universal body called the Christian church I had lost my innocence long before September 11, 2001 because I was keenly aware of the suffering of many of my fellow believers around the world. Since I was also aware that suffering was a universal condition, I didn't believe that whatever special quality some Americans claimed for themselves and for their nation was going to protect them or her from experiencing suffering some day. It was only a question of when and how.

2. Americans had their assumptive world shattered. Many Americans lived under the belief that terrorism and tragedy happened "over there." Americans were not prepared to think about terrorism on their shores. The invincibility that many people believed was theirs by birthright was shattered. Parents struggled to have to explain their children that they couldn't guarantee that bad things couldn't happen to them. Of course, if Americans held a more realistic view of the world as a place of good mixed with evil maybe they would have been well practiced in having this conversation with their children.

3. Americans began struggling to understand the balance between protection and freedom. Do we allow cameras on every street corner? Do we increase surveillance at our airports and borders? Is it okay for libraries to be access points of scrutiny by local police forces? Many western democracies who share our love for democratic principles are puzzled by this struggle. They have figured out that how this balance can be struck. This debate continues to unfold in our public dialogue.

4. Americans awoke to the reality of "the different" among us. Who are the Muslims? What do they believe? Should we be afraid of them? The murder of the member of Sikh community in Mesa, AZ because he wore a turban a few weeks after September 11 revealed the confusion, distrust and fear. Muslims had lived on our shores for over 150 years and no one had really noticed. The clash of the cultures which was being played out in Europe, Middle East and Far East was now on our shores. The conversation continues about how to live as a nation of diverse faiths and beliefs.

Those are my thoughts for this September 11, 2011.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ok, what's my excuse?

Recently a "skinny kid" made it into the Pro Hall of Fame. Shannon Sharpe went to college with two brown bags filled with all his earthly belongings. "I grew up in Glennville, Georgia, and we were so poor, a robber once broke into our house and we ended up robbing the robber."

The All-Pro tight end for the Denver Broncos was nicked- named "Shapeshifer" in his early career for his ability to shape his body to any form to catch a ball. Shannon loved to comment: "I was a terrible student. I didn't graduate magna cum laude. I graduated 'Thank you, Lawdy.'"

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Merton on Identity

What is meant by identity? ...For practical purposes here we are talking bout one's own authentic and personal beliefs and convictions, based on experience of oneself as a person, experience of one's ability to choose and reject even good things which are not relevant to one's own life.

Merton, Thomas. Contemplation in a World of Action. (Notre Dame, Indiana: Notre Dame Press, 1998) 61


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Merton On Identity

Identity in this deep sense is something that one must create for oneself by choices that are significant and that require a courageous commitment in the face of anguish and risk.

Merton, Thomas, Contemplation in a World of Action: 61

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Labor day thought

If all the cars in the United States were placed end to end, it would probably be Labor Day Weekend.  ~Doug Larson

The price of labor

Labor was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things.  It was not by gold or by silver, but by labor, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased.  ~Adam Smith

Sunday, September 4, 2011

On Forgiveness

“When somebody you’ve wronged forgives you, you’re spared the dull and self-diminishing throb of a guilty conscience.
When you forgive somebody who has wronged you, you’re spared the dismal corrosion of bitterness and wounded pride.
For both parties, forgiveness means the freedom again to be at peace inside their own skins and to be glad in each others presence.”
                 Frederick Buechner “Listening To Your Life”, p. 305

Keep your eyes on the right object of devotion

2. I knew a person who for more than ten years profited by a cross roughly made out of a blessed palm and held together by a pin twisted around it. That person carried it about and never would part with it until I took it - and the person was not someone of poor judgment or little intelligence. I saw someone else who prayed with beads made out of bones from the spine of a fish. Certainly, the devotion was not for this reason less precious in the sight of God, In neither of these two instances, obviously, did these persons base their devotion on the workmanship and value of a spiritual object. They, therefore, who are well guided from the outset do not become attached to visible instruments or burden themselves with them. They do not care to know any more than is necessary to accomplish good works, because their eyes are fixed only on God, on being his friend and pleasing him; this is what they long for. They very generously give all they have. Their pleasure is to know how to live for love of God or neighbor without these spiritual or temporal things. As I say, they set their eyes on the substance of interior perfection, on pleasing God and not themselves.

-St. John of the Cross, The Dark Night of the Soul, Book 1, 3.2

 Commentary: There is a useful place in a novice's life for objects which focus devotion and faith. The danger is to become prideful about this devotion and miss the real focus of faith which is love of God and neighbor.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Secret to Spiritual growth

God generally sends these storms and trials in this sensory night and purgation to those whom he will afterward put in the other night - although not all pass on to it - so that thus chastised and buffeted, the senses and faculties may gradually be exercised, prepared, and inured for the union with wisdom that will be granted there. For if a soul is not tempted, tried, and proved through temptations and trials, its senses will not be strengthened in preparation for wisdom. It is said therefore in Ecclesiasticus: He who is not tempted, what does he know? And he who is not tried, what are the things he knows? [Ecclus. 34:9-10]. Jeremiah gives good testimony of this truth: You have chastised me, Lord, and I was instructed [Jer. 31:18]. And the most fitting kind of chastisement for entering into wisdom consists of the interior trials we mentioned, since they most efficaciously purge the senses of all the satisfaction and consolation the soul was attached to through natural weakness. By these trials it is truly humbled in preparation for its coming exaltation.

St. John of the Cross, Book 1.14.4

Commentary: In simple words, there is no gain without pain. Our common American Christian teaching is that we can have all of God's blessings with no suffering. There is no greater heresy.

Friday, September 2, 2011

What is the dark night of the soul?

Bk 1, Ch 9, #2.
As God sets the soul in this dark night… He allows it not to find attraction or sweetness in anything whatsoever. #4. God transfers to the spirit the good things and the strength of the senses… if it is not immediately conscious of spiritual sweetness and delight, but only of aridity and lack of sweetness, the reason for this is the strangeness of the exchange. #6. If those souls to whom this comes to pass knew how to be quiet at this time… then they would delicately experience this inward refreshment in that ease and freedom from care… it is like the air which, if one would close one’s hand upon it, escapes. #7. In this state of contemplation… it is God Who is now working in the soul. He binds its interior faculties, and allows it not to cling to the understanding, nor to have delight in the will, nor to reason with the memory. #8. God communicates… by pure spirit. From this time forward imagination and fancy can find no support in any meditation.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The journey of faith

Bk. 2. Ch. 24. #4. This dark, loving knowledge, which is faith, serves as a means for the divine union in this life as does the light of glory for the clear vision of God in the next. #8. A person should not store up as treasures these visions, nor have the desire to cling to them. #9. Our journey toward God must proceed through the negation of all. One should remain in emptiness and darkness regarding all creatures. He should base his love and joy on what he neither sees nor feels – that is, upon God who is incomprehensible and transcendent.
- St. John of the the Cross, Ascent of Mt. Carmel