Sunday, May 19, 2019

2019.05.19 Invigoration

Last week I had two invigorating experiences—speaking experiences that sparked my soul and brought light to my eyes, and fire to my heart. I was tired when I went in all prepared and—my armor—but when I came out I was alive, awake, fired up not burned out. I was the principle speaker. But I was the speaker in words only.  My listeners supplied the heft, the spiritual energy, and the authentic Word. (I capitalize that to mean that I think God/Spirit was present in the connection—not the whole cause of it, but the true essence.)

Part I  The Young

On Tuesday I visited a college class,The Psychology of Spirituality, at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. My oldest Granddaughter, Gillian Colbath, a SCSU graduate, had loved this class. The professor, Dr. Jessica Suckle-Nelson, aka Dr. S., had told me the class loved my talk last year, so I invited myself back. The seventeen twenty-something students wandered and straddled and finally assembled. They all sat along the edges or in the back of the classroom at lab table desks. I began: “This looks like church. Everyone sits way in the back or lines up along the side—as if you couldn’t be seen.” Everyone laughed. At ease.

Introductions with name, place, and serial number are always dry and boringly necessary. I invited each one to say something interesting about him or herself and simultaneously guaranteed that I wouldn’t remember any of their names. We laughed. Interesting things included being born with no pinkie knuckles, living in Greece for a year, playing three musical instruments well, feeling lost from a connection with religion or God, being agnostic but curious, and more. My own thing was: I am a wannabe Catholic, one-time Presbyterian, turned Episcopal priest—happily ever after, so far. I watched each face light up as each shared a mere snippet of what made them—them. No one balked. Analogically, I felt as if we all were baptized together in the gentle waters of the divine womb—all born together not of years, but by Soul.

I then invited them to go deep with apologias, not as an apology or regret, but as a way to say more about what mattered to them. Blank faces looked as if I were crazy. I even told them I had read the famous tract Apologia Pro Vita Sua written in 1864 by John Henry Cardinal Newman who converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism. Handsome sage, no?
Newman's work was like a spiritual memoir in defense of his controversial choice. His contemporaries freaked out, as people do when you push an already tight envelop wide enough to split its seams. I told the students I struggled through Newman’s famous work and didn’t understand a word. I did, however, get the idea that it was good to know what I was doing and why. And hey, Newman’s tract raised such a fuss it became a best-seller, is still in print, and  in time qualified him for sainthood. Don’t be afraid of yourself and the depth dimension of life, I suggested. There’s wisdom to be found. Newman's lasting goodies include:
    To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often
    Fear not that thy life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a                 beginning.
    Growth is the only evidence of life.


I felt invigorated by the openness and curiosity of these young people, even though I did most of the talking and had to be reminded that I’d just gone over the magic hour of class dismissal. Graciously, they applauded and left. I hope the time was as nourishing for them as it was for me. Perhaps the greatest joy of the day was getting hugs and grins from Gillian, a beloved first granddaughter with the loveliest smile and personality I think I have ever seen.

Part II The Older

On Thursday I spoke to a group of about twenty older women on the topic: “Am I My Sister’s Keeper?". They are part of Women Explore, a group that has been meeting since 1953 to hear speakers and each other on the sacred dimensions of a woman’s life. Men were admitted so I brought my faithful beloved chauffeur/husband. He is my personal GPS without whom, well, I get lost.

With this group I had as much fun. They were all white proper Bostonians mostly from Cambridge, so I began with my own apologia: I am white, elite, went to elite schools, privileged, and cis-gendered. I’m also religious—not a very politically correct marker these days. I am also sick of being labeled and typed. I’m not consistently aware of my privileges, but I try, and trying is divine. I use my privileges for those closest to me in love, and I use them for larger causes like social justice. But I’m sick of being stereotyped for my labels. So add that I’m a woman impatiently aging and pissed. I swear this country would elect a newt or a dishrag before it would elect a woman as our president!  

Again, humor eased us all into a loaded topic. 

A focus speaker talked about her personal experience with the topic. She said she devoted herself to caring for others and posed questions about how much "is too much." She was trying to figure out the difficult answers on her own, a strategy that rarely works. She apparently had left herself off the list of those who also need her caring compassion.

I advocated for collective spiritual keepership and focused directly on the biblical story about two brothers, Cain and Abel, and the poignant extremes of sibling rivalry leading to the first murder + cover-up in the Bible. What we notice—when we wake up—is that God knows what Cain has done, is not pleased, exiles Cain, and then gives him a “mark” assuring him of God’s presence and his survival. Look always for the last word! Simply so.

The Bible remains, mysteriously, a best seller, because there is every human problem imaginable in it. Believe me: your own story is in there. The wonder of it is that there is a consistent relationship pattern of connection/disconnection/reconnection. Astonishingly, the people and God reconnect even after the worst possible messes. Often God initiates the reconnection, though sometimes we do in our prayers and with the graces of forgiveness, advocated by all spiritual gurus. 

Collective spiritual keepership means that we all are keepers of one another. Benefits include: non-partisan politics, fuel for our prayers, healing collective shame, efficient action, awareness enough to build mutual relationships, commitment to organizing for the common good, justice, equity, truth-telling, peace, energy enough to save our drowning planet, Mother Earth.

We live in a tragic time of renewed holocaust mentality: burnt offerings—guns burn, fires burn religious structures, kids in schools burn, tiny children burn with loss and terror. With the resurgence of white supremacy comes the supremacy of terrorism and holocaust as strategies of choice.

The women asked many questions. They burned with the fuel of longing for change, and for a new way of being people together. The young burned with the same energy. Such inner burning is not holocaustal. It is the fire of spirituality, burning within us. It is strong. It is alive. It is available. It is what connected the nuns and the “nones”, both fueled by the same activist energy, now working together for change. It is what fires up all religions. It’s what inspires Goodness, what Creator God started in the beginning. In today’s gospel Jesus re-reminds us to Love each other. Yes, and while you’re at it love yourself.

You may not believe in God, yet you can believe in the fire within you, and you can act with Love as its fuel. Love is the only fire vigorous and hot enough to burn out destruction by holocaust fires. Love will save us and our drowning planet. And, for Christians, it is the ONLY mission Jesus fired up.

And so may we try.