Saturday, February 27, 2010

Terrified and cannot surrender

Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.
--T. S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday

I am struck today by the phrase in the header: the thought of those who are terrified and cannot surrender. This, I believe, is about surrendering to grace. To live in fear - of God, of one's failures, of one's limitations, of one's secret sins, of the world, of oneself - yet not be able to do the one saving thing - letting go - is a terrible place to be.

Will the veiled sister pray not only for those who "merit" her intercessions but also for those who offend her? Is there forgiveness for the sinner? Are there new beginnings for the worst offenders? Fresh starts for those abject in failure? What hope is there for those who know they have affirmed before the world and then, in the rocky place, have denied?

Peter, of course, reminds us that the answer for at least some of this is Yes.

The apple-seed associated (non-biblically) with our fall is withered. It is the Cross that will flower. We must move beyond our guilt and fear. God wants better for us.

--the BB

Prayer for all killed, injured, or dispossessed and all who are threatened by tsunami

A powerful 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck offshore of Chile this morning. Pacific coasts including all Hawaiian Islands are under emergency Tsunami warning. That means get the hell off the beach in those areas or any place near it. Experts indicate there is time for residents near vulnerable shores to proceed quickly but safely and calmly to higher ground:

USGS info page here. NYT has an excellent update page and livestream. See also additional discussion is going on in IndianaDemocrat's recommended diary.


Note that the entire Pacific Rim and all Pacific islands are on watch as a tsunami has begun to form.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Where shall the word be found?

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice
--T. S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday

We seek and seek yet do not find.

Perhaps if we stopped seeking and were still.

If we stopped making noise and listened.

If we stopped directing our looking and simply beheld.

And he said, ‘Go and say to this people:
“Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand.”
Make the mind of this people dull,
and stop their ears,
and shut their eyes,
so that they may not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and comprehend with their minds,
and turn and be healed.’
--Isaiah 6:9-10
For those of us accustomed to urban environments it is so easy to walk through a multitude without meeting the eyes of a single person.

I spoke on the phone yesterday with someone who had moved to a rural area and had to explain to his son that in the country people wave and speak to strangers; that's just what they do.

What if just for a day we made a point of not "putting on a face to meet the faces"? If we drop our masks and meet the face of the other? If we set aside our surface judgments and labels and beheld? What might we see?

A particular curve of a jaw. The slight crookedness of a nose. The gradation in hair shades. Flecks of gold in someone's iris. The way she tilts her head when she ponders. The tension in his mouth. The gentle smile at the edge of eyes. Anxiety on a forehead. A wistful look. A universe behind someone's eyes.

The other.

The Other.

Or will tomorrow and the day after and the the day after that be the usual pretense, the usual hustle?
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

I commend to you all Laura's post with a poem by Yevgeny Yevtushenko. It merits the detour.

A snippet:
In any man who dies there dies with him
his first snow and kiss and fight.
It goes with him.

They are left books and bridges
and painted canvas and machinery.

Whose fate is to survive.
But what has gone is also not nothing:

by the rule of the game something has gone.
Not people die but worlds die in them.

The Word speaks.

May we STFU and listen.

And turn and be healed.

--the BB

Calling a spade a damned shovel

I love it when someone calls a lie what it is: a lie.

Maddow: What's going on here is a deliberate attempt on the part of Republicans to define nuclear down -- to conflate these two totally separate things to demonize the way that Democrats have to pass health reform right now. By calling it the nuclear option even though the nuclear option is a real thing in the Senate, and this isn't that -- it has nothing to do with that. Perhaps the reason that Republicans are so unwilling to call this what it is, reconciliation is because they have a really long record of using reconciliation.

h/t Heather Thursday at Crooks and Liars

--the BB

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hold the mofos accountable!

Pawlenty's Solution to HCR Costs: Just Let ERs Refuse Patients

Sigh. All this and the endless lies and disinformation.

--the BB

After work

Sandia Crest
This is what I see when I leave work each evening, though I see it filtered through trees and rarely walk up to the frontage road to capture a photo (as I did last night).

Here is a close-up for lovers of mountains (yes, you, Ralph), and lovers of Albuquerque.

I admit that I have tweaked contrast and a few other items so these pictures "pop" a bit more.


--the BB

The Word within the world and for the world

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.
--T. S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday

Eliot takes us now to the prologue of the Fourth Gospel. At the heart of Eliot's conversion (the occasion of this poem) and of the pilgrimage of this poem lies the Word, the Logos/Λογος, the self-expression of God that is beyond all speech and which speaks all things into being.

And God said, Let there be light. And there was light.

Without him was not anything made that was made.

Heard or unheard, it nonetheless lies at the heart of creation and gives itself for the sake of creation.
The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

This Word has pitched his tent among us (εσκηνωσεν εν ημιν), taking on flesh of our flesh (ο λογος σαρξ εγενετο), uniting creation to himself forever.

All creation centers on this Word, the cosmos whirling and dancing about the still center.

And how do we respond to the center of our being?

O my people, what have I done unto thee? is the question raised by the prophet Micah and forms the refrain of the Improperia, the Reproaches that are part of the Latin Rite for Good Friday. The Blue Book, trial usage that preceded the 1979 BCP, experimented with restoring them to the Episcopal Church but they did not make it into the BCP. It is easy to use them as a basis for Antisemitism. In fact, the first link I clicked on had an unpleasant comment along those lines. The point of the Reproaches, however, is to confront US with our hard-hearted responses to God's goodness.

Do we respond to God's eternal Yes with a resounding No?

Sadly, yes, we do.

There is still grace, and grace upon grace, but we need to face the reality of our unmindfulness, ingratitude, and frenzied efforts to have life and the universe on our own terms. Eliot thrusts this echo of the Reproaches into this litany of the Word to shock us back to mindfulness.

May we be mindful of the Word, the true Word by which all things exist, the eloquent, silent Word at the core of our being... and listen.

--the BB

Playing with telephoto

This is a shot I took just after work yesterday: a portion of the Sandias in the late afternoon light.

--the BB

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Redeem the time, redeem the dream

Who walked between the violet and the violet
Who walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary's colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary's colour,
Sovegna vos

Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke no word

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew

And after this our exile
--T. S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday

In our spiritual transformation we pass through times of penance, walking between violet and violet, and come to a paradise, a garden with various ranks of varied green. There are fountains and springs, the rocks are cool and the sand firm (desert transformed into a place of refreshment).

I love the phrase "restoring/ Through a bright cloud of tears." Years ago I read Alexander Schmemann's Great Lent and encountered there the phrase "bright sadness" and this "bright cloud of tears" brings that to mind. Schmemann writes that "On the one hand, a certain quiet sadness permeates the service: vestments are dark, the services are longer than usual and more monotonous, there is almost no movement." He goes on to say that "then we begin to realize that this very length and monotony are needed if we are to experience the secret and at first unnoticeable 'action' of the service in us. Little by little we begin to understand, or rather to feel, that this sadness is indeed 'bright,' that a mysterious transformation is about to take place in us. It is as if we were reaching a place to which the noises and the fuss of life, of the street, of all that which usually fills our days and even nights, have no access--a place where they have no power. All that which seemed so tremendously important to us as to fill our mind, that state of anxiety which has virtually become our second nature, disappear somewhere and we begin to feel free, light and happy. It is not the noisy and superficial happiness which comes and goes twenty times a day and is so fragile and fugitive; it is a deep happiness which comes not from a single and particular reason but from our soul having, in the words of Dostoevsky, touched 'another world.' And that which it has touched is made up of light and peace and joy, of an inexpressible trust."

In this might we experience "ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour," a profound awareness of the world's ills and our own failures that is tempered by letting go of our anxiety and, perhaps most importantly, of our own self-centeredness? The great reality, after all, is not my sin but God's goodness. And it is not about ME but about all of us, all creation.

If I fear letting go, perhaps I can remind myself that the ancient rhyme I wish not to lose will be restored "with a new verse."

The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream

Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

We come to the silent word, or more properly, Word.

Beyond our exile, beyond our desert pilgrimage, beyond our violet season, is this: new life.

The Word that spoke creation into being is still speaking and creation continues.

--the BB

Monday, February 22, 2010


02/22/10 DoD:
Marine Casualty Identified
Cpl. Gregory S. Stultz, 22, of Brazil, Ind., died Feb. 19 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan.

02/22/10 DoD:
Marine Casualty Identified
Lance Cpl. Joshua H. Birchfield, 24, of Westville, Ind., died Feb. 19 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.

02/20/10 DoD:
Marine Casualty Identified
Lance Cpl. Kielin T. Dunn, 19, of Chesapeake, Va., died Feb. 18 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

02/20/10 DoD:
Marine Casualty Identified
Sgt. Jeremy R. McQueary, 27, of Columbus, Ind., died Feb. 18 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

And the many others since I last posted at 972 fatalities.

And may light perpetual shine upon them.


My apologies that I have not kept this feature up and adequately honored our fallen. May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

Heart thread - 02/22/2010 (new)

This evening let us remember Cathy. She wrote this to Mimi:
Mimi, this is nowt to do with your Lenten reflections, but could I please post a prayer request here? ... I have an interview tomorrow first thing for a six-month contract where I work (I am currently freelance). I wouldn't mind people's prayers for it, is the thing.
My friend Bruce is home from the hospital. There is no infection in the bone but the infection in his foot may take another four to six weeks of healing.

Mother Rhonda writes:
I just had a quick conversation with our dear deacon [Karly], and she and Gordon are on the way to the hospital for tests on his heart. Please keep them both in special prayers.
Tad continues to recuperate from surgery in both knees and could surely use some more prayers.

Jane R's mother continues to recover.

George also continues to recover from his bypass surgery.

Let us continue to remember those whose health or well-being are threatened by weather, especially those lacking shelter, or heat, or health care.

I am mindful especially of my indigenous sisters and brothers suffering from lack of heat. A netroots drive is on to provide them with fuel. I donated some a couple of weeks ago and hope I can donate a week's propane to a family this week. You can read about it here.

Let us also remember the people of Haiti and the ongoing need to heal and rebuild the nation.

Ed Hughes (not the Ed Hughes I know locally who is a member of St Michael and All Angels) died last Saturday. Many of my colleagues worked with him. He has two teenage sons, Greyson and Colton. May he rest in peace and rise in glory. May the boys and all who love him find comfort.

Fluffy/Eileen has a head cold.

The Diocese of Virginia could use some prayer. Props to Margaret for never forgetting the Gospel. Prayers for all those freshly crucified.

Thanks for prayers for me, though my situation is pretty tame. I am experiencing no pain in the tooth and see the dentist on Wednesday afternoon for assessment. I am sure this will mean a crown, and I am hoping it was one of the teeth they were planning to crown anyway. I did not have the heart to tell the friend who said on Facebook that now I will have a CROWN that, in fact, I already have two of them, which is why the corner of my smile in photos has a glint to it.

--the BB

Beyond hope and despair

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs's fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind
over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy

but speak the word only.
--T. S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday

The speaker has ascended, whether Jacob's ladder or the ascent to Zion, and moved from the darkness he left below toward light. There is a window, shaped to suggest fecundity. There are blossoms and the colors of sky and greenery, music, blowing breezes to replace the fetid air below. Hope and despair are transcended and we hear the words uttered before receiving Holy Communion.

Lord, I am not worthy... but speak the word only.

We have come to a graced place, a graced state.

To get there we have let go, we have gone beyond death. We have relinquished hope and also despair. We have thrown ourselves upon God. Unworthy, we nonetheless are ready to receive the food of angels, the shared life of God, Godself.

--the BB

What a perky war criminal

Meet Jennifer Koester Hardy, a hitherto redacted and unknown author of the torture memos. She worked under John Yoo and did a lot of the drafting. Who would guess that behind this smiling face is a brain that promotes torture as a policy of the United States government.
The report makes clear that, despite apparently having been given the assignment almost at random, Koester played a more active role in the process of producing the memos than perhaps anyone else at DOJ, with the possible exception of Yoo. In July 2002, when Yoo and Koester went to the White House to brief then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, and perhaps David Addington, Dick Cheney's top lawyer, on one memo, it was Koester, not Yoo, who orally summarized the memo's conclusions (p. 46). (None of the attendees offered any feedback at the meeting, Yoo told OPR.)

You can read about her here.

In the words of our friend Göran: "Another Nürnberg!"

Ship her to the Hague along with the boys. They should not be walking free.

--the BB

Heart thread - 02/22/3010

Catching up on prayers here. Some are specific to today, some go back a week or so.

A Happy and Blessed Anniversary to Nancy and Jeremy!

Happy Birthday to Stan!

For Bruce who is battling a nasty post-operative infection.

For Jack following mouth surgery.

For Lindy traveling to Shanghai.

Prayers for Sandy and those who love her. LJ writes:
Sandy, my canine companion of many years, appears to have had a stroke. This is at least her second, possibly her third.
For Molly the Wonder Dog (this is a very tardy request but prayer crosses time and space). Susankay asked a while back:
Please prayers for Molly the WonderDog -- she just had a long and bad seizure -- the first in almost two years. She is still freaked out and very sad.
For Mimi's daughter's family who had to say goodbye to Max, their beloved cocker spaniel.

For restoration of my tooth, the outer third of which broke off from its fillings this weekend.

For all those journeying through the wilderness - of Lent, of life, or of physical geography.

For the people of Haiti.

--the BB

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I left them twisting, turning below;

At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jaggèd, like an old man's mouth drivelling, beyond repair,
Or the toothed gullet of an agèd shark.
--T. S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday

This section is one of those places I would rather not go. It is unpleasant. A dark place where nightmares seem to dwell. One I love has a damaged mouth. This passage makes me uncomfortable.

As Eliot writes of turnings of the stairs my memory flashes on the black carved banisters of the stairwell in Durham Castle, now a university dormitory where I spent two weeks in 1997. Then on to - how many movies? - where one looks down a stairwell while fleeing an often not-yet-identified pursuer. One sees hints and flashes and hears approaching steps. The threat is real.

Only this is a poem, not the cinema. We see:
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.
A shape, not defined yet described as twisted. Twisted how? There is a vapor, the air is fetid, the very atmosphere is repugnant and vaguely threatening. Is the twisted shape malevolent, some black-shrouded afreet (think ring wraith if you are a LOTR fan)?

No, it struggles with a demon, "with the devil of the stairs who wears/ The deceitful face of hope and despair."

What sort of demon is this which comes to us in contrary forms? Does it come as false hope (and genuine despair)? Does it represent two seemingly opposite postures, both of them likely to lead us astray? to entrap us? to hinder our ascent and drag us down?

The poet (and the soul?) does not cease to ascend but leaves the strugglers and the struggle behind. The faces of hope and despair are left behind. Perhaps all recognizable faces. All that is left is a shapeless maw - a dark but ultimately powerless mouth of hell? Something that still lurks below, waiting to take us in, yet we ascend.

--the BB

Why is this man walking free? - updated with h/t

Report: Bush Lawyer Said President Could Order Civilians to Be 'Massacred'

How is that for a headline? Michael Isikoff reported the following at Newsweek:
The chief author of the Bush administration's "torture memo" told Justice Department investigators that the president's war-making authority was so broad that he had the constitutional power to order a village to be "massacred," according to a report released Friday night by the Office of Professional Responsibility.

So I ask you: giving a president unlimited dictatorial powers violates both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution, no?

Then why, in the name of all that is holy (and the rule of law), has John Yoo not been disbarred for violating his oath to uphold the Constitution? Why is he allowed to teach at the University of California? The question of why is he not behind bars for war crimes is related to his justifications for torture, not this.

(All that is ignoring what a smug bastard he is.)

What is wrong with this nation?

When will the rule of law be restored to the United States?

I am just seeing the Bush Crime Regime being given one pass after another.

And I have a few words for the President:
Yo, Barry! Your oath to support, uphold, and defend the Constitution involves enforcing the laws. Laws have been broken. When the hell are you going to start enforcing? Why do you hamper your DOJ? Get with it. Or do you want to go down in history as yet one more sorry-ass lawbreaker? Just saying.
I forgot the h/t to ImpeachKingBushII

--the BB

Why I love where I live (an ongoing series)

Sandias at evening
(from the Costco parking lot)

Manzanos Mountains
(viewed from about 2 blocks north of my house
on the way home from brunch today)

Mountain panorama

--the BB