Friday, June 24, 2016

The Divided Self

I painted this a few days ago, and have very mixed feelings about it.  I love it because I feel it was painted THROUGH me; completely un-influenced by anything I've seen painted by anyone else, which is rare:  more often my paintings are inspired either by something someone else has done or by something I've done in the past that someone else has liked.

I also love a lot of the color in it, the way the colors beneath poke through, and the way the interference gold on it gleams (trust me: in person the gold is yummy!)

But the division of it bothers me: I love the ethereal quality of the right side of the painting, but the darkness, the rigidity, and the sensuality of the left side, while I wouldn't change them exactly, made me reluctant to post it here -- which is why I cropped and inverted the right side and posted it a couple of days ago. 

But this morning, after hearing of the division of Britain, which, in its own way, reflects the very painful division in our own country, I immediately thought of this painting.

And now I see that it needs to be called "The Divided Self," and that it depicts both the pain and the potential of that division.  Though I couldn't see it when I first painted it, I now understand that somehow the agony of labor is tied to the pain of division; that in the birthing of something new we are no longer concerned only with our own welfare but with that of others/another, while at the same time something we held close and dear is now separate, released into the world to stand on its own; that we can no longer guarantee its safety; no longer protect it as completely as we were once able, and have no choice but to realize how very frightening the world can be.

It is, in a way, the loss of illusion: we are forced to face the darker side of things.  And that's not easy.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Venture further out


Though your tide is running low at the moment,
that doesn't mean you can't keep sailing forward --
you just might have to venture further out;
to step beyond your comfort zone 
in search of deeper waters...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

An unseen touch


Just because something is impossible to describe or define;
just because it's never been experienced before --
that doesn't mean it can't exist, or can't be felt,
or can't be known as true.
Sometimes there's just... a presence:
an unseen touch that leaves us feeling
safe; connected; respected; accepted -- 
and above all,
loved.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Each one a work of art


However strung out or exposed you may be feeling,
know this: you're still a glorious work of art :)

Monday, June 20, 2016

The journey, not the destination...


The lovely benefit that accrues
when you're not in the driver's seat
is the opportunity to enjoy the scenery you pass by.
When you're always focused on the road ahead
you can miss a lot of beauty...

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The path to growth


The path to growth, formed as it is by engagement -- 
with nature, with ourselves and with our demons,
with others, organizations, and institutions --
is rarely smooth and very rarely straight;
it may even be hard to keep your balance...

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Reflections on church

Here's the short form; read on beyond for a longer explanation:

Reflecting on the language 
of the church of my childhood,
it seems we were trained to believe we were broken,
competing for God's conditional approval.
 
With time and experience I've come to believe
we were born into an infinite stream 
of unconditional love,
and called to carry that out to the world,
each in our own unique style.
I'm sad that our churches 
still so often mislead us that way...
 
As a young child, growing up in the Presbyterian Church, I was fascinated by the sermons, and decided at an early age that I wanted to become a minister. In those days, in that church, every sermon began with this prayer:

"May the words of our mouths,
and the meditations of our hearts,
be always acceptable in thy sight,
O Lord, our strength and our redeemer"

Recently, at a retreat on Teilhard de Chardin, I found myself sitting at lunch with a delightful young man, an Episcopal priest, who proudly proclaimed that he had returned his congregation to the old prayerbook; that he loved the Elizabethan language.

"I love that language, too," I replied, "but how can you reconcile what you're doing and saying on Sunday with what we're learning here, in this place?  Don't you find that language jarring?"

He assumed I was objecting as a feminist, so the conversation got a bit off track at that point.  But what I was trying to say -- and the reason I now find it so difficult to attend the churches I once loved so much -- is that I find it impossible to reconcile the concept of God expressed in that language with what I now believe to be true.

Cynthia Bourgeault reminded us, at that retreat, that the word person comes from the Latin words per sonare, meaning to sound through. I read that definition again this morning in Richard Rohr's wonderful book on Franciscan theology, Eager to Love, and found myself thinking (having been caught in a weekend of drama and arguments where I've been trying to consistently sound a voice of reason) how important that is to me: to be a person who is sounded through; a channel through which the Divine voice of compassion and reason can be heard.

So of course that old prayer came to mind -- I sincerely want the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart... but then I came to a stop.  "Acceptable in thy sight" implies that God is somehow separate from me, an authority figure whose approval I crave, which is not what I'm thinking at all.  What I'm asking is that I be a clear channel so that what I say has truth and resonance; is not cluttered with my own egoic needs but comes rather from that deeper source within that is fed from the still deeper stream of wisdom and love to which we are all connected.  I don't want to "Look okay." I want to sound true, in the fullest sense of that phrase.

... and then there's that word "redeemer," as if I am somehow broken, unsalvageable except through divine interference.  And I don't believe that anymore either.  I don't think Christ was sent to save us (and folks, I get that some of you think this is heresy, but bear with me here) because we are terrible human beings.  I think Christ was sent to show us that we are ALL both human and divine, that EACH of us carries within us that essential goodness and wisdom that links us to the divine stream of wisdom that flows through all of creation.

It's okay if you don't believe that, too.  But I think if we continue to believe we need God's approval (which is conditional, and we're supposed to somehow know what those conditions are), and that we are broken and need to be redeemed, then, like children -- and especially siblings -- we'll always be competing for that approval, defining those conditions, and pointing our fingers at others claiming they're more broken than we are. 

That's never going to foster a sense of oneness with humanity: as long as we are separate from God then we'll continue to remain separate from each other, in competition for some limited dispensation of acceptance rather than sharing in God's infinite wealth of love.