Tuesday, March 31, 2009

nail this to my door, por favor

Martin Luther's famed 95 theses-they were nailed to the Wittenburg Church door roughly 500 years ago.

I believe it was October of 2000 or 2001, when I decided to celebrate Halloween by doing nothing at all, save posting a note to trick or treaters reminding them of the more important event which fell on 10/31, that of "Reformation Day". I included a printout of the 95 theses, if I'm not mistaken. But whether the words were there or not, it is certain that something was missing from my mind, and that was a true reflection on Luther's words in the 95 theses.

I took the time to read his theses again today, and stood aghast at number 7 which states:

"God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making him humbly submissive to the priest, His representative."

If you follow the theses through their logical chain, do not lose sight of where you began.
Keep your eyes open. Don't forget to breathe.

He was climbing a ladder towards making a point, but at no point was he speaking ill of the teaching of Christ in the Gospel of John which states:

"If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained."

How it is that some can retain the sins of others and loose the sins of others if we are all atoms floating up to God, with no chain linking us to others, no obligations to speak to another of our many wrongs and weaknesses, is simply beyond me. But my incredulity is not the topic du jour, nor is your credulity.

It is the words of Luther, so often chanted against establishment, as though they were tools of unraveling the web of tradition which surrounded him in 16th century Germany. Those words must be considered. We can talk of De Captivitate Babylonica Ecclesiae and see three years later that there was an out and out rejection of the world in which he lived.

But do not take me to the "start" of it all, and imagine this Augustinian monk holding some sort of a Chick tract and a smile that states that it's all about the individual and Jesus.

For Luther's 7th thesis is in keeping in the Catholic and Orthodox tradition, when he says:

"God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making him humbly submissive to the priest, His representative."

Let those words simmer and roll about your intellectual palate. God never remits guilt to anyone when? When they are not made to be humbly submissive to whom? To the priest? And who is this priest? The representative of God on earth?

If that fits in your perspective, you are in agreement with Luther. But somehow I must wonder whether Luther would have (m)any friends who are Protestants today, who would sign up to thesis #7. To their credit, some traditional Lutherans may grasp this. But is this an exception to a rule where we all seem to make our own rules of contrition and repentance and penance? Now I'm sorry enough. Now I have asked God with enough sincerity to forgive me. Now I have united my heart to His sufferings enough.

And what about the rest of the 95 theses? Luther takes great pains to not disparage the Pope as he does disparage those who treat God as some sort of sick cosmic genie. As well he should, as well we should. I had heard it said that Catholics can affirm all 95 theses, but to read them today was shocking, for it appears to me now that not only is that true, it also seems like most Protestants would have serious qualms with these words written by Luther.

So nail those theses to my door, but do not call for all of the nails in Christ's one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church to be pulled out of the building. Do not pull the bricks of His Church apart to the point that not one stone lies on top of another. For when you plumb such depths, you will be going too far. Asking for sincerity is one thing. Bringing it about by tearing down walls is another matter altogether.

In this time of Lent, where repentance and confession of sins are so important, I take Luther's words as a call to remind me again and again that no man is an island.

"God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making him humbly submissive to the priest, His representative."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

a blog post on our new site

Check it out here, SVP.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

hell is "safety"

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell." - Clive Staples Lewis, The Four Loves

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

hell is no other people

"Hell is other people." - Jean-Paul Sartre

This is the mantra, the codex, the thing to say and say again and again upon our 21st century rosary beads. No longer do we begin the prayers in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we have adopted what Sartre says in his great play No Exit. We live by those words. Don't get me wrong....the play is poignant, the dialogue striking, and most importantly, he is an artist who crafts a reflection of our society's mindset. But do all of us really think as he does? Should we?

"If only that person were not in my life, I would be free of the shackles that hurt, offend, mock, ridicule or otherwise annoy me."

And so it is that we set up all sorts of filters, some literal, some metaphorical.
"I know what I'll do--I'll block that soul who has scorned me for the last time".....and thanks to gmail and yahoo, we are all set for saying good riddance.

"Hell is other people, for other people hurt us."

This is our superficial understanding, and it is carrying more and more of us to our graves with each passing moment, it would seem. We are dying with lists of those who are untouchables to us, those whom we wished did not exist. And yet, despite all of our walls, booby traps, and blind spots, these who should not be named do exist. In shirking reality and passing over them in our view, we are poisoning our own vision. We systematically close our eyes to various corners occupied by those sad souls, to the point where our own eyes are forced to remain closed all of the time-a sort of inversion of A Clockwork Orange-and we wonder why we have wasted away.

Now please, do not get me wrong. I have stewed in anger in my time, that is for sure, and perhaps I am akin to the choir preaching to the rest of the world. Wishing someone had never come into my life has consumed my soul and I have seen this mantra lived out consistently for periods stretching longer than my own life. I have told myself that I should and would never talk to someone again, after what they had said or done to me. And after those years or moments of retreat and aversion of my eyes, what safety have I gained? None. Instead it has wounded me in ways that I probably haven't even come close to grasping even after hours of introspection and reflection.

But there is something else that has come from this soul searching and meditation, and it is this-there is no pain or trauma that comes close to the searing wound of feeling absolutely nothing at all. I have wrestled with being called names that I will not utter here or anywhere. I have come up with my own names to call others in fits of rage and violence-those too won't be recalled here, there or anywhere. I have made people cry with these concoctions meant to tear down and destroy, these spells of obliteration. But none of that can be compared to the experience of utter disregard. To be in the midst of an abyss, where no one else is concerned with your life or death, that is to be in hell. Hell is to be with no other people. We can only hope and pray that Jean-Paul Sartre did not get what he wanted. For if he envisioned an old hotel room where he was truly alone, no amount of frustration with the flaws in his companions on this sojourn of life would be remembered, when he remembered his isolation and disconnection from this world that was meant to be entangled. The pain that we flee should not be fled--it must be understood in the proper light, not numbed with the correct proportion of neglect, chemicals, or therapy sessions.

In the midst of this murmuring and confusion, I see a voice, and a face. Ironically, he too was named Jean-Paul, though we Americans called him John Paul while he walked among us. He was not only mocked by others, he had his actual flesh ripped open by a bullet which flew into his body. When he saw that man who shot him, he remembered and chose to live by His friend's statement which at times it seems is nonexistent in our world.

"Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."

Pope John Paul II was able to meet face to face with the man who tried to end his life. He even said, "pray for my brother, whom I have sincerely forgiven." And we in our pettiness bicker over issues such as who gets what when someone dies, or whether someone approves of our way of living? Oh, the travesty and tragedy...What are you willing to do to end the hell of separation and isolation? What have you created that has barred you from closeness with others?

If you do nothing at all, you may be following the other John Paul, but you will have wound up nowhere as a result.

No man is an island. That thought outweighs any poignant play in a heartbeat, if we would but consider its ramifications.

Monday, March 9, 2009

and while i'm busy loving mana.....

It's almost enough to get you pochos and gabachos to learn el idioma de conquistadores....almost....

Cómo quisiera poder vivir sin aire
Cómo quisiera vivir sin agua
Me encantaría
Querete un poco menos
Cómo quisiera poder vivir sin ti

Pero no puedo siento que muero
Me estoy ahogando sin tu amor

Cómo quisiera poder vivir sin aire
Cómo quisiera calmar mi aflicción
Cómo quisiera poder vivir sin agua
Me encantaría robar tu corazón

Cómo pudiera un pez nadar sin agua
Cómo puidera un ave volar sin alas
Cómo puidera la flor crecer sin tierra
Cómo quisiera porder vivir sin ti

Pero no puedo siento que muero
Me estoy ahogando sin tu amor

Cómo quisiera poder vivir sin aire
Cómo quisiera calmar mi aflicción
Cómo quisiera poder vivir sin agua
Me encantaría robar tu corazón

Cómo quisiera lanzarte al olvido
Cómo quisiera guardarte en un cajón
Cómo quisiera borrarte de un soplido
Me encantaría matar esta canción

sigue lloviendo

No Ha Parado De Llover

Desde que te perdí
La luz se ha puesto muy mojada
mirada triste esta nublada
Y en mis ojos no ha parado de llover

Solo y ya sin ti
Me tienes como un perro herido
Me tienes como un ave sin su nido
Estoy solo como arena sin su mar

Quien detendra la lluvia en mí
Oh no, no
Se me ha inundado el corazón
Quien detendra la lluvia en mi, oh mi amor
Solo tú puedes pararla

Sigue lloviendo, le sigue lloviendo al corazón
Dime que diablos voy a hacer
Sigue lloviendo, le sigue lloviendo al corazón
Y en mis ojos no ha parado de llover

No te comprendo, no entiendo que paso
Si te di todo, quizás te di de mas
Dime que falto, dime que sobro, dime que paso
Pero dime algo, que me estoy muriendo

Quien detendra la lluvia en mi, oh no, no
Se me ha inundado el corazón
Quien detendra la lluvia en mi, oh mi amor
Solo tu puedes pararla.

Sigue lloviendo, le sigue lloviendo al corazón
Dime que diablos voy a hacer
Sigue lloviendo, le sigue lloviendo al corazón, oh no no
Y en mis ojos no ha parado de llover, yeah yeah

Sigue lloviendo, le sigue lloviendo al corazón
Dime que diablos voy a hacer
Sigue lloviendo, le sigue lloviendo al corazón
Y en mis ojos no ha parado de llover
No para de llover
No ha parado de llover oh no no

Saturday, March 7, 2009

if I WERE to be critical, it would sound something like this....

There There

in pitch dark i go walking in your landscape.
broken branches trip me as i speak.
just because you feel it doesnt mean it's there.
just because you feel it doesnt mean it's there.

there's always a siren
singing you to shipwreck.
(don't reach out, don't reach out)
steer away from these rocks
we'd be a walking disaster.
(don't reach out, don't reach out)

just because you feel it doesn't mean it's there.
(there's someone on your shoulder)
just because you feel it doesn't mean it's there.
(there's someone on your shoulder)

there there

why so green and lonely?
heaven sent you to me.

we are accidents
waiting waiting to happen.

we are accidents
waiting waiting to happen.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

1, 2, 3, 4....who's ? what's the score??

This second song (which has 2 renditions for your viewing and listening pleasure) is 99.3% relevant to my life:

Been hearing about you.
All about your disapproval.
Still I remember the way I used to move you.
I wrote you a letter.
I heard it just upset you.
Why don't you tell me?
How can I do this better?

Are you out there?
Do you hear me?
Can I call you?
Do you still hate me?
Are we talking?
Are we fighting?
Is it over?
Are we writing?

We're getting older.
But we're acting younger.
We should be smarter.
It seems we're getting dumber.
I have a picture
of you and me in Brooklyn.
On a porch, it was raining.
Hey, I remember that day.
And I miss you

Amen, Br. Merton

Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.

"so what does it all mean?" (indeed)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

it actually is casimir pulaski day today...

For some reason, I am full of questions. Why is that? Oh yes, I forgot....I am a scientist and my life and death hinges upon asking questions. And not only must I ask questions, but they must be the right ones. Asking a wrong question is almost worse than doing nothing at all. Or is it?
Why Sufjan Stevens would name this song Casimir Pulaski day intrigues me. Did the death of his friend occur on this day (March 4th is the feast day of St. Casimir, patron saint of Poland and Lithuania)? Is that alone sufficient? Is there something to this saint's life and death that makes a tragic death especially poignant (he was only 25 when he died, after all)? Does Sufjan Stevens even know about the history of St. Casimir? Or is this all coincidental? Am I ignorant of the impact that Polish culture has on the midwest? Surely this last question is the most important one to be answered in our immediate context of the song about St. Casimir. But I forgot to ask you--have you heard it? No? Well, even if you have, listen again, por favor.

Golden rod and the 4H stone,
The things I brought you
When I found out you had cancer of the bone.

Your father cried on the telephone
And he drove his car into the Navy yard
Just to prove that he was sorry.

In the morning, through the window shade
When the light pressed up against your shoulder blade
I could see what you were reading.

All the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications you could do without
When I kissed you on the mouth.

Tuesday night at the Bible study
We lift our hands and pray over your body,
But nothing ever happens.

I remember at Michael's house
In the living room when you kissed my neck
And I almost touched your blouse.

In the morning, at the top of the stairs
When your father found out what we did that night
And you told me you were scared.

All the glory when you ran outside
With your shirt tucked in and your shoes untied
And you told me not to follow you.

Sunday night when I cleaned the house
I found the card where you wrote it out
With the pictures of your mother.

On the floor at the great divide,
With my shirt tucked in and my shoes untied
I am crying in the bathroom.

In the morning when you finally go
And the nurse runs in with her head hung low
And the cardinal hits the window.

In the morning in the winter shade
On the first of March, on the holiday,
I thought I saw you breathing.

All the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications when I see His face
In the morning in the window.

All the glory when He took our place
But He took my shoulders and He shook my face.
And He takes and He takes and He takes.

The lyrics to this song itself raise many questions. Is Stevens writing from the perspective of the doubter? Or is his viewpoint that of the person full of the most faith of all? The one who can be shaken at their shoulders and face, and not shut out that message, but incorporate such pain and suffering into a larger scheme where God is good, is the one who truly believes. The one who does not demand the world to go their way is the one who grasps their infinitude. But is all contentment apathetic? Or is there room for happiness which rises above the here and the now to contemplate the infinite, and so be content with whether He gives or He takes? To censor this message of questioning is to cease to be, for when questions cease one lacks the faith of a little child, and this is no mere lack, it is one where the little child's clamors are turned away. This is a positive tragedy, not a mere dire dirge dedicated to dearth.

And yet, the question arises, what of those many souls we know who have gone from questioning in a child's tone, to questioning in a plaintive one? Is there a line of delineation between the thinking that is childlike and the thinking that is religulous? Will Occam's razor cut the soul who is too eager to use it? Or does this take us back to asking whether there is such a thing as wrong questions? I think it does. But again, the question I have is: is it not the heart that matters most? Regardless of the questions asked, if the heart is there, it is not only unshakeable, it itself will ask any question without fear of its world being turned upside down. This is why we see young children asking us why the sky is blue. And why did we ever stop asking such questions? Questions, questions, questions.