Saturday, October 25, 2014

e quelli lo uccisero

The tomb of Héloise and Abailard
19th century, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

By the time I learned about Peter Abailard (also spelled Abelard), I became a fan.  There are many reasons.  He was a brilliant theologian who attracted students to Paris.  He was willing to think outside the box.  In his work Sic et Non (Yes and No) he took theological propositions and argued both sides, showing how logic could be used to analyze a question.  Of course, not simply taking the approved position could, and did, get him trouble with church authorities.  He questioned the usual theories of atonement, most of which posited the need for something to happen in order to change God's stance toward sinners.  He proposed what came to be known as "the moral theory" of atonement in which God did not need propitiation but we needed to have a change of heart.  When we look at Christ on the Cross we see how every much God loves us and are moved to return to God.  THAT was a breath of fresh air to me in seminary, especially since I had been raised on the penal substitutionary theory (a judicial penalty must be paid to satisfy God's justice and Jesus paid the price so we could be acquitted) as the only acceptable theory ever held.  It was so nice to study the history of doctrine and learn that all kinds of ideas have been put forth to explain how we are reconciled to God in Christ (and all of them have shortcomings).

Peter was not only a brilliant scholar, philosopher, theologian, and teacher, he was also a poet and a lover.  He wrote numerous hymns, some of which are still sung in hymnals today.  And he and a certain student were the most famous lovers of his era.  Héloise was a brilliant and charismatic student, and they fell in love, had a child named Astrolabe, and were secretly married.  Her uncle had Peter captured and castrated.  The two lovers were parted and she became a nun and later abbess.  They had a great correspondence and the hymns he wrote were for the convent of the Paraclete where Héloise was.

Centuries later their bodies were reunited and buried in Paris.  Although I lifted the photo from the web, I have my own photos of this tomb and of the roses I laid there (but they are on another computer).

Did I mention that Peter was falsely accused of holding unorthodox views, was hounded by none other than Bernanrd of Clairvaux, and condemned at two church councils?  Well, I saved the best for last, I guess.  You will not be surprised that I have never recognized Bernard as a saint for this one reason alone and that I keep Abailard's death day as a feast.

Abailard was a square peg in a world of round holes.

And so am I.

In claiming my selfhood and the right to be myself, I say to the entire world, "Fuck all your round holes!"

If you detect some anger there, you have clued in accurately.  And if you suspect some pain underlying that anger you are correct once more.  It is not that I am furious at this particular moment, I am fairly calmly writing of an ongoing existential stance.

In earlier essays I spoke of how I unconsciously, automatically, reflexively adapted my words, behavior, and expressions to please others, even when the others were not really asking that of me.  Most of my life has been spent trying to trim my peg to fit into holes shaped by, determined by, ordained by others.  Most of us have an experience of this since we are all unique.  But I had it in spades.  I never had the inner strength and clear identity to say, "Not my hole, not a fit, not even going to bother."  Even now it is a victory, large or small, every time I say "no."

To this day, when pressed to imagine my life had I made other choices I seem to slam into an impenetrable blank wall.  As imaginative and creative as I am, I have immense difficulty imagining a life other than the one I have led.

The photo of me in clericals, properly posed for a church directory, creeped me out because I saw myself rip-sawed, adze-hewn, and savaged to fit a round hole.  Trying so very hard to be a good parish priest and a right proper Episcopalian.  My therapist helped me reframe how I saw that photo, shifting it from, if you will, some Hallowe'en monster that terrifies me into a human, me, who had been shaped into something that was not quite true.  Violated.  A part of myself that desperately needs to be loved, pitied, grieved for, understood, healed.

I mentioned today on Facebook that I am too quick (and I would add too facile) to jump in with counter instances, balance, defense. In an earlier post I spoke of how I tried to be, and often was, a good priest.  But that is glossing over the violence, the damage, the abiding pain, and fires of rage I almost never acknowledge.

One of Abailard's hymns, sung during Holy Week, is this:

Solus ad victimam procedis, Domine,
Morti te offerens quam venis tollere;
Quid nos miserrimi possumus dicere
Qui quae commisimus scimus te luere?

Nostra sunt, Domine, nostra sunt crimina:
Quid tua criminum facis supplicia?
Quibus sic compati fac nostra pectora
Ut vel compassio digna sit venia.

Nox ista flebilis praesensque triduum
Quod demorabitur fletus sit vesperum,
Donec laetitiae mane gratissimum
Surgente, Domine, sit maestis redditum.

Tu tibi compati sic fac nos, Domine,
Tuae participes ut simus gloriae;
Sic praesens triduum in luctu ducere,
Ut visum tribuas paschalis gratiae.

Francis Bland Tucker's translation, the best known, is this:

Alone thou goest forth,
O Lord, in sacrifice to die;
Is this thy sorrow naught to us
who pass unheeding by?

Our sins, not thine, thou bearest, Lord;
make us thy sorrow feel,
Till through our pity and our shame
love answers love's appeal.

This is earth's darkest hour, but thou
dost light and life restore;
Then let all praise be given thee
who livest evermore.

Grant us with thee to suffer pain
that, as we share this hour,
Thy cross may bring us to thy joy
and resurrection power.

Episcopalians can find this in The Hymnal 1982, Hymn # 164, sung to the tune Bangor.

I have no messianic pretensions or delusions and am NOT comparing myself to Jesus.  But I am identifying with this much: "Alone thou goest forth in sacrifice."

In an earlier post I included my poem based on the Sacrifice of Isaac and noted that it was written for all the sons sacrificed to their fathers demons where no ram was provided at the last moment, no angel cried, "Stop."  It is a universal theme, endlessly repeated.  Whether it is the unfulfilled dreams or the unrecognized demons of the older generation, sons and daughters get offered up over and over again.

It seemed to me that everyone expected great things from me.  How could I let them down?  And I had a mystical sense of divine calling in an era and a specific religious culture where that took very few forms.  I remember how, at age 15-16, I read about the life of pastors and thought to myself, though I never dared utter it to anyone, "O hell no!  I cannot imagine anything more dreary." (Welcome to the Confessions of not-Augustine!)  But if not a pastor, then a missionary or an evangelist.  The evangelists I knew were all pretty much used-card salesman, including the one who most influenced me who had been precisely that.  The whole dramatic building up of guilt and crisis in others and then offering them a one-size-fits-all remedy (only it doesn't), seemed too fucking manipulative to me.  I insert the expletive to underscore my distaste then and now. And missionary?  The Wycliffe Bible Translators had the appeal of my love of languages and linguistics.  But you have the same manipulation combined with exotic climes and customs and foods.  I was way too damned picky an eater and too comfortable living in California, thanks.  God may have been calling, but I was not leaping with joy, eager to cry, "Here am I, Lord, send me!"

It seemed that faithfulness to God involved a price and, like it or not, I signed up to pay it.  I persevered in the path toward ordination, not once but twice: first as a Baptist then as an Episcopalian.

But here is my dirty little secret that I am now admitting: the Church has always been too small for me.

That is not a self-aggrandizing statement, though it could be read that way.  Remember, I am now and always have been a nature mystic.  Rigid boundaries, orthodoxies, and structures do not mesh will with mystics and never have.  I follow Peter Abailard in rejecting simple answers and definitely fall in the moral theory of atonement school, which remains a minority view in most denominations.  I worship the Cosmic Christ, that Word through whom all things come into being and that Light that enlightens everyone who comes into the world; and the Universal Spirit that permeates all things, simultaneously bringing forth endless variety while binding all into a great unity; and a transcendent Creator who cannot be captured in any words or categories.  I encounter the Divine everywhere. The Church is just a tiny part of Creation; the God who is everywhere is mostly somewhere besides Church.

Yes, symbolically and emotionally I remain a Trinitarian.

The irony is that for someone who, at some level, has always known the Church was too small, too narrow, too inadequate, I plunged into it with fervor.  I specialized in biblical studies and like any good Baptist I knew the Bible really well.  I have read it ALL the way through multiple times, even the endless begats. Next I turned to Church history and really loved it.  If you had a question about what something means, or why we do something in the liturgy, or how we came to believe something, I probably had an answer.  I wanted to know and I loved to share. And then, gradually over the last fifteen years, all that became increasingly irrelevant to me, no matter how deeply formed I am by it all.

Speaking of Scripture.... You know how different passages resonate in different ways under different circumstances?  Allow me to share a parable:

Then he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture:
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?”
When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away.
-Mark 12.1-12
 Again, I am not identifying with the only son (or the Only Son), or desirous of playing with full allegory, or anything like that.  Just saying that the following words and images came to mind as I thought about my clergy photo:
beat over the head
I was not physically beaten but there are those who witnessed me being emotionally beaten and bullied.  I was literally and publicly insulted.  And my spirit was killed a thousand times from my teens into my sixties.  I need to sit with this reality, feel it, honor it, grieve it, and allow it to heal. In this essay I have brought it out into the light and air so it no longer suppurates.

That is why I recoiled from the photo.  That is why I have given away almost all my vestments and want to unload my theological library.  That is why I do not attend church.  There is too much history there.

I am a square peg.  God made me that way, I like being that way, and I intend to rejoice in that which God has made.

And if anyone has some round holes that need filling, let them find a round peg.  I am no longer available.

--the BB

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Il ritorno

Outline map of Mídhris

I spoke a little last night of voyages and homecoming, of the protagonists of my fiction and myself. There are a few more thoughts to share on this theme.

Ian Dyrnedon, aka Darkslayer, is torn from his home in Yorkshire and never returns to earth. He and most of his companions, who became known as the Light Bearers, are so changed by their experience that they are touched by a restlessness. (Spoiler alert: I am about to share something that happens in the fourth book, as yet unwritten.) They end up migrating from the Forest of Norrast southward to Wolmsley Wood, which is central in later tales.  Ian is forced by circumstances to make his home among the people who took him in and to join other migrants in creating yet another home in new territory.

Grevedan Deveril, my alter ego and the fictional redactor of the entire series, crosses between worlds and spends years in Mídhris before crossing back to earth.  As with all the characters in the series, he has no control over this "slipping between dimensions."  There are locations where it is more likely to happen and individuals to whom it is more likely to happen but nobody wills it into occurring. Grev thrives in Mídhris as a scholar and historian and has a great love affair there.  It is doubtful he would have returned to earth if left to his own devices.  If he could return, he would but once he finds himself back in Central California there is no chance of seeing Mídhris again.  All he has left is his own memory of it (mercifully a photographic memory) and family stories.

A sketch of Grev's arms from the early 1970s

I chuckle as I look at Grev's coat of arms.  From his mother he derives the honorary title and the great oak tree (there go my trees again!) and from his father the flaming sword expressive of the cherubim guarding Eden and Matt's role in the Great Fire.  A home among the trees (my "treehouse" among the alders in Hercules?).  Exile and unspeakable loss.  The crest of the earthly line of Wolmsley is a blossom of Hermann's Peace, a magical flower with its own tale to tell, a tale of reconciliation and healing.  The motto is from Hosea 14.7: "They that dwell under his shadow shall return" (Authorized Version).  That theme is taken from the story of St Mirksel the Healer, of exiles returning to the land.

Looking at this fictional series as a reflection on myself is a fascinating exercise. There is a magical parallel world that may echo my ability to dissociate from my present circumstances.  There is loss of family and fostering in an alien society that may echo my being adopted.  The personal and psychological displacement of characters in the tales is immense and often irrevocable.  Narrative tension and storytelling adventure dictate restlessness and many journeys and what does this say about me?

A factor in writing this fantasy series that I find fascinating is how much of the storyline arises from my attempting to answer questions.  The family trees that I have developed are treated as fixed historical data to which I almost never make changes, though I keep adding to them.  I ask myself what becomes of Ian's descendants.  Where do they scatter? Whom do they marry?  How does the bloodline run from Ian all the way to Grev?  If Ian finds himself in Norrast, why do we encounter his family in the Isenwild and Wolmsley Wood centuries later?  What happens to the earthly line of the Dyrnedon family and how do the Mithron and Terran lines cross and mingle?  It is akin to solving a multidimensional puzzle.

It is usually only after spinning out a narrative that I can look back and see what I have just revealed (even if cryptically) about myself.  It is interesting as I go through this current exercise.  Looking at various segments of my life I do see the continuing threads that weave it all together. That helps make sense of the journey and of myself.

One could also say that the psychological exploration that I am doing now is really groundwork for returning to the series.  I yearn for a "ritorno" (return, homecoming) to writing this fictional opus.

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.
- T. S. Eliot, "East Coker," Four Quartets

--the BB

Musa, quell’uom di moltiforme ingegno

Be forewarned. The following is not a coherent essay but a collage of thoughts around the theme of coming home from a journey and being at home.  It is rather disjointed but I am not going to labor over it. [The title is the opening of the Odyssey in Italian.]

As I turn to the Odyssey, I am confronted with the theme of the "nostos" (νοστος)" "homecoming" if you will.  As Wikipedia puts it: "the idea of returning home from a long journey."   That is what the Odyssey is all about and many mythic contexts would suggest that is what our life is all about.

When I began a bedtime story that would turn into The Adventures of Jonathan Grubbley, way back in November 1972, I turned to Liz, who was working on her master's degree in folklore and mythology, and asked her for a story line.  She suggested the hero quest, and that is what the bedtime story became, my tongue very firmly planted in cheek.  It was very silly and lots of fun for all of us, but clearly the tale of a hero's journey, even if the hero happened to be a ten-year-old boy who was bored on a rainy day.

It is pretty damned hard to escape archetypes.  Young Jonathan wound up in the middle of my cycle of tales while his ancestor Ian turned into the hero of an epic poem.  Ian's tale launches the entire cycle and proves a deadly serious journey, sending Ian forth to battle an evil that threatens his world, rounded out in his journey home.  It is a Bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story, in which his adventures shape him from a lost boy into a remarkable man.

Then there is Grev, descended from both Ian and Jonathan, whose own journey rounds out the Chronicles, shaping and shattering him in the process, leaving him and the reader to ponder all that is gained and lost, then make of it what meaning we may.

I have commented that Ian is who I wish I were and Grev is who I am.  Well, Grevedan Deveril is my alter ego (and nom de plume).  And Jonathan's tale could easily have been one of the tales with which I entertained my nieces and nephews half a century ago (though it actually beguiled graduate students who needed a break from studies).

All these stories are inevitably woven from my own life journey, the sources and people and events that enriched me and my imagination. All that has formed (or deformed) me becomes grist for the tales, ground together, leavened, and turned by the mysterious alchemy of storytelling into narratives that do not sound anything like my life and yet are totally my life.  As some of the opening lines of the Odyssey put it:
Many were they whose cities he saw, whose minds he learned of,
many the pains he suffered in his spirit on the wide sea,
struggling for his own life and the homecoming of his companions.
So, what of homecoming?

Odysseus and the Sirens

This particular graphic leads me to think about the Sirens as figures of whatever might lure me to my destruction.  In light of recent posts here, that could well be whatever has enticed me, or tried to entice me, from being true to myself.  Having talked about that already, I won't develop it here, only note it since it is a powerful image from myth.

 Ascension of Christ by Bagong Kussudiardja, Indonesia

Most of my past sermons on the Feast of the Ascension have used the image of homecoming, not merely Jesus returning to his Father but, since by the incarnation and his baptism he has united all creation and humanity to himself, the return of humanity and all creation to the Creator.

Not that homecoming is necessarily all fun and games. At the end of the Odyssey, Odysseus slaughters all his wife's suitors.  Their behavior had unsettled society in Ithaca, overturning all that was right and proper and healthy, and when Penelope's husband, and the true king, returns he sets things right again with a bloody vengeance.  Lord of the Rings fans know The Return of the King is not a walk in the park.

In Darkslayer I tell of a young boy who, by accident (or the will of the Stars), finds himself separated from all he calls home, torn forever from family and early eighteenth century England.  He must now live his life in another world, among a forest people and a warrior society.  He is accepted, beloved, and celebrated. He and his wife are best friends as well as lovers and, the initial adventure completed, they live a happy life.  She has one nagging anxiety: that he will be taken from her world as suddenly as he was taken from his original world.  He sees more than most people see and his mind is often very far away.  At the end of book two she asks if he is truly happy. Given all he has lost and gained, he has to think about it.  His home is now with her and their children.  Oh, he answers "yes."  I am a romantic; what did you expect?

But it is not a simple or easy answer.

The question all this poses for me tonight is not whether I am happy (I am ) but where do I feel at home?  Am I a perpetual wanderer who can never settle?  Can I put down roots and feel a sense of belonging and peace?

I have wandered and every time I moved it seemed not all that difficult to move on.  Bill will tell you that this very passive Taurus needed two years (and almost dynamite) to get him from Los Angeles to the East Bay.  Well, LA was the big city after life in Central California.  It had represented freedom and new life to me.  Once in the Bay Area I quickly realized how good it was to be there instead of Smogsville. Still, I was able to pick up and move on.

Part of me still misses our home in El Cerrito, though I am very glad now to be in New Mexico.

I do feel at home in my back yard.  It is a little oasis that I have developed over the years.  It was a sandbox and in April 2007 it looked like this:

Only one tree in that photo survives, lol.

I certainly have a sense that I love this spot and do not want to leave it.

In this first year of being a student at the University of New Mexico, I find the campus growing on me.  From the perimeter it is not very attractive, but when you get into the heart of the campus it is really quite nice.  Yes, once again I am bonding with landscape... with TREES.  But also with the sense of a place of learning, of youthful energy and potential.  It is very invigorating.  I would not call UNM home but I do feel that I am where I ought to be.

Those who have watched my posts at Facebook will recognize how many times I post shots of the mountains and sky here in Albuquerque and comment "I love where I live."  I do.  I feel deeply anchored by the mountains to the east, the volcanoes to the west, and the Rio Grande running from north to south.  I love the cycle of the seasons here: not harsh seasons but real seasons, nonetheless.

I do sense rightness and belonging.  Am I at home?  Probably as much as I have ever been. Although I love traveling, I have no urge to move.  Have I come to a resting place?  Well, right now I am at a wrestling place, not a resting place, yet I have a sense of contentment.  My journey is far from over.

Where, besides here, have I felt at home?

Evidently in the landscape of my dreams, discussed earlier.

In the hills around Hume Lake when I have been by myself: just me and nature.

At Mount Calvary before the fire, when the monastery and the Order of the Holy Cross provided a spiritual home for a pilgrim whom most considered neither fish nor fowl (no longer a Baptist but not really an Anglican).

Interestingly, though not a surprise to me, I feel very much at home here:

Yes, in the heart of Paris. Though I am not a citizen of France, nor a native or resident of Paris, when I am in that city I feel at home.  There is, for me, a rightness about being there. Something simply unquestioned.  I feel safe in Paris, comfortable, at ease.

I have only been there four times.  The first was in December 1967 as a young student, completely on my own for the first time in my life.  Yes, I was anxious, but also excited.  The second time was in the summer of 1969 when I served as an interpreter for a group of fresh high school graduates on a church tour that included helping to build a church in northern France and attending a conference in Switzerland.  We were only in Paris three days.  In 2012 Bill and I spent twelve nights in an apartment and caught as many sights as we had energy for, soaking up museums and architecture.  Then last May I spent twelve nights in the same apartment, on my own with no agenda, no timetable, and no responsibilities to anyone but myself.  Just like that first time forty-seven years earlier.

In sum, I think I have felt at home where I could be me.

To the extent that I feel sufficiently strong, free, and unanxious these days, I am increasingly just myself and thus increasingly at home. Because home is ultimately right where we are, and we must be at home within ourselves.

May we all welcome ourselves because journeying can be hard.

--the BB

Monday, October 20, 2014

Senza riserve

This fountain was on the street where we stayed in Rome in April 2011.  I love the simplicity of something so delightful. Somehow this photo seemed apt for what follows.

There is a bit of free verse that I wrote, I believe, in 1965.  I had taken a bucolic scene with lots of green grasses and blue sky and silhouetted trees from some magazine, trimmed it so it came to a point on top, then sliced it in vertical thirds.  In my imagination it had become three portions of a stained-glass window, a triptych from nature.  And alongside those three sections, taped onto lined pages, I wrote.  This is the third section:

And this is the poem on that page.  I do not deem the first two sections worth preserving or commenting on, but this captures something that I consider significant.

this little corner
all i ask
to infinitely live
its finite bounds--
this limited expanse
shall ever be
i limits share--
to care a lot
about a little thing
is more than
suffice but well
a little song to sing
without reserve
without a fear--
this little corner
the world
my altar

I had not yet read Teilhard's Hymn to the Universe, his offering of the world itself when he lacked bread and wine to celebrate the Mass.  But yes, the closeted Baptist boy was showing his sacramental, yea even Catholic, leanings that early.

As in earlier posts, I shall indulge in my own commentary because the point of this exercise is not to tell any reader what they should find in my old poems but to explore what I find in them that is meaningful to me today, especially as I look back over my life.

To see the infinite in the finite is a very sacramental view of existence.  If, as we proclaim in the Sanctus, "heaven and earth are full of [God's] glory," then the smallest, meanest particle is imbued with the Shekinah.  The Jerusalem Temple does not contain the divine presence anymore than a random strange quark.  So within finite bounds one can encounter the infinite and as one participates in the divine Life, as I believe all creation does, then one may infinitely live even within the confines of time and space as we experience them.  Even in this I could recognize the truth that God is God and I am not.  I share limits, but that is all right.  That is both profoundly challenging (I am but a fragment of Creation's grand dance, partial, incomplete, broken, and mortal) and yet this cannot undercut my connection with all that has been, is, or ever shall be.

I really like the segment that reads: "to care a lot/ about a little thing/ is more than/ amplitude." That captures so much for me.  It speaks deeply, affirmatively, and joyously.

The current reflections are all designed to help me understand what has led me away from myself, tempted me, coerced me, or misled me to try to be something other than who I most truly am.  It seems that given my obnoxiously quick intellect, my easy tuning into to the feelings of other people, and my desire to please and to help, I was a perfect project for those who wanted to make something grand of me.  Someone who would go far in this world.  Be some kind of success.  Do great things.  My pediatrician said, "If you want to be a missionary, fine, be a medical missionary."  Well, as with any good Jewish mother (and she was one), the dream of a doctor is always there, right?  My sense of a religious vocation was distressing to many. Shouldn't I be something more prestigious? But if a pastor (which was respectable but hardly the image of a huge success or of someone who would change the world), at least a pastor of a very large successful (bourgeois, respectable, wealthy) congregation, OK?  And yes, that latter image was expressly put forth by my parents.

And yet, as this poem clearly articulates, I really would be happy with a small corner of the earth, and my introverted self would certainly be more at ease.  I did not want to stride forth on some grand stage.  I felt as though so many people (teachers, counselors, family, etc.) wanted me to 'BE SOMETHING," something more than I really wanted.  Dang, if I could have been a high school teacher like Mr. Amend, who could passionately share not just knowledge but the love of knowledge and of the riches of human culture, and seen lights come on in the eyes of students, I think it would have been awesome.  Granted, as the years went by he was bitterly disillusioned in the educational endeavor and that remains a sadness on my own heart for his sake, and for what students who followed us seemed unable to receive from him.

I would probably have been happy as a college instructor.  Not a full professor.  Fuck committee meetings and the pressure to publish or perish.  That is not me.  I do not want to be a front-line researcher (and I knew that full well when I was in a doctoral program).  I wanted to be the popularizer who could take the research others do and share it in a way that others could enjoy the fruits of that research.  And I knew and articulated that when I was in grad school.

As a clergyman I never wanted to be rector of what we call a "cardinal parish."  A smaller church was always much more to my liking.  I did not want the pressures to succeed in some corporate business model (the curse of the church in so many ways these days).  And some of the greatest joy in my years as a priest were the moments when I could see by an expression or hear in a tone of voice that something "connected" for someone.  Something made sense, some context for a life was gained, some new meaning discovered, some new inner strength revealed, some hope kindled, some fountain of grace unblocked so forgiveness and healing and new life could happen.  As someone who has been a teacher all my life no matter what work I ostensibly did, I knew I was only the midwife and that was plenty for me.

So here I am, still yearning to get to the rest of my novels, or as many as I can write.  I can hardly call them some "little song" and yet they are not aimed for the rungs of great literature.  I still wish that what I write as fiction will constitute some "rollicking good tales" that entertain.  I am confident they can also encourage, challenge, inspire, move, and exalt the reader as well, but the first rule is that the tale must engage and entertain. That would be my little song and it would suffice.  I do know that as I wrote the early seeds of the series and as whole books take shape, I write without reserve and without a fear. This fantasy parallel world is my little corner (and it is just a corner of the parallel planet).  It is my altar on which I offer up my vision, my wisdom (such as it is), my tears and my joys: a gift given with a free and open heart to whosoever will enjoy it.

I know I had a sense of being groomed for great things.  I hated and resented it. Fiercely and bitterly but never spoke of this to any one. So my walls grew higher and thicker and stronger.  And this may be why so many of my carefree dreams are set in the geography of my pre-adolescent years, before the pressure came. And the anxiety dreams are set in high school and college.

If one examines what gives me joy...
If one looks at the subjects of my photographs...
So often it is just details or the everyday.

to care a lot
about a little thing
is more than

--the BB