Saturday, December 28, 2013

My faith

Since the previous post announced that I no longer attend church, folks may wonder about my faith these days.  It has certainly evolved over the decades.

I still worship the Holy and Lifegiving Trinity and in that sense remain a rather orthodox Christian.  I pray the Lord's Prayer at bedtime.  My formal prayer life is very short and very simple and resembles that of a young child remembering beloved persons with the "God bless X." formula.  I do not need sophistication or nuance.  I hold people and the world before God in my heart.  That's it. Sometimes I light candles.

My view of reality is mostly rationalistic, scientific, and I do not believe God alters the laws of physics.  I believe the universe is a combination of randomness and pattern.  If I accept randomness then I do not believe everything happens for a purpose.  Stuff just happens.  We impose meaning on it by the narratives we create.  This matches both experience and studies of mythopoiesis.   This paragraph indicates why I so often agree with my atheist friends when they reject many pieties.

Having said that, however, I have all my life been a nature mystic.  I did not have words for that growing up.  I am an animist, if you wish to use that term, because I believe in the consciousness of all matter.  I see all creation as interrelated, everything as connected. My worldview is sacramental.  The presence and grace of God are manifested in observable phenomena and not just in the formal sacraments of the church. The Spirit's primary locus of action is everywhere at all times.  I am a panentheist (not a pantheist, look up the difference if it is unfamiliar to you).  God is everywhere present and in everything but I do not conclude that whatever is constitutes the fullness of God.

I will not define God.  I am a poet, a bakhti yogi, an artist.  I follow the path of the heart and I understand and express truth in images.  I have studied the phenomenon of language enough that I believe all we communicate is metaphorical.  Nothing is literal.  That is not a problem for me.  All the words I write here are symbols of meaning, not the things they symbolize.  Whether you discuss Christian theology, Hindu wisdom, pagan ritual, astrology, Sufi poetry, etc. they all are symbolic of psychic realities and deep experiential truths, so I can chat with people of different paths without getting hung up on metaphysics.  I am rather agnostic about metaphysics, actually: yours, mine, and anyone else's.

I rejected atonement theology long ago as a tribal hangover unworthy of any deity I wish to worship. This does not mean I reject the Cross and jump to Easter but I am a Resurrection Christian and much more Eastern Orthodox than Western in most things.  I ponder the transfiguration of creation, not sin and guilt.  I would rather lose myself in the goodness of God than wallow in the alleged evil of humanity, including myself.  The former is far more important and always true and much of the latter is the projected nightmare of abused souls.

If the doors of the New Jerusalem are open day and night and the kings of the earth that lamented the fall of Babylon bring their treasure into it, then no one is shut out.  I will stick with the final images of the Apocalyps rather than popular images of some getting in and others not.  You want in, you're in.  Since I believe that the only "place" that has ever existed or ever will is deep within the heart of God, then you cannot be anywhere else and have never been anywhere else.  If that is not where you want to be, it is your hell.  But you are loved and always have been and always will be.  I have no use for preachers of Bad News.

I think Margaret Watson is one of the best theologians and priests walking upon Ina Maka [Mother Earth].  My daily office is her blog.  She repeatedly redeems the Bible for me, finding the kernels of redemption and recasting what she reads in terms that match the harsh realities of our lives and common sense.

Each day is lived in gratitude.  I am blessed beyond all measure.

--the BB

He's back!

It has been almost a year since my last post on this blog.  Other things have taken my attention and most of my public expression has been on Facebook.  I think I need to spend more time rattling on.  Probably not for the public, which will largely be indifferent to my thoughts, but for my own sake.

2013 has been an amazing year.  I have gone through more intense transition than at any time since I dropped out of the graduate history doctoral program at UCLA, came out of the closet, and became an Episcopalian in 1974.  This year has probably been more intense than that. The good part of this is that I feel more authentic than I ever have in my life, and Bill attests to this.  [If you are new to this blog or to me, Bill is my best friend, soul mate, and ex; he has known me for 36 years.]

I think I will try to recap and reflect upon much of what has taken place.  I will be oblique and cryptic, as I have been on Facebook, to protect the privacy of others who have been part of this year's journey and my own need for public boundaries.  Those closer to me already know much more about this amazing year.

This year I got into some serious bread baking and learned to make a nice rustic loaf with a good crust and do it consistently.  I was rather manic about it, as I tend to do, and bought some new equipment related to bread baking, including a proofing box and a clay cloche.  I have not made bread as much in the latter half of the year but I know how to do some things with bread that I did not know a year ago.  Look for more homemade bread in 2014.

The addition of the patio in the back yard and the installation of drip irrigation has transformed not only my back yard but my entire home.

April 2007

Summer 2013

With that external transformation accomplished, I looked at the interior of the house.  If you know me well, you know that I am a terrible housekeeper and a bit of a slob.  Also a pack rat.   So the upstairs rooms resembled way too closely those of a the hoarders you see on television.  This was a source of great shame and discomfort but it was also one of those barriers I created to protect myself. This year I hired some folks to help me tackle several rooms and although there are still some stacks of boxes here and there I have open floor space, usable rooms, and places where I am not too ashamed to allow people.

As those "walls" were taken down I also was taking down emotional walls around my heart and at that point the story is too personal for details here.  I am not unique in finding it a challenge to be authentically myself around others and find that comfortable.  If you have experienced the "performer" side of me this may seem hard to believe but Bill always found me to be the most private person he knew, and he knows me better than anyone else does, sometimes better than I know myself.  Trust me, I have carried high walls around myself all my life.  Nice to let them down.

My life has been lived so much "in the world" that I only had paid work in the church for twelve and a half of the twenty-three years I have been a priest and did not even accrue the equivalent of ten years' pay. What was central to my life has become peripheral over time.  At this point I no longer attend church at all and cannot honestly say I miss it.  I do love the people I have known in various congregations but my interest in the institutional church is close to zero.  Having said that, I must add that the People of San Gabriel Episcopal Church in Corrales, New Mexico, are an amazing group of folks who worship God, love each other, and serve the community around them with faithfulness and generosity.  They have been a blessing to me and they exemplify what church should be.

I shoot pool every week, and this is something new in the past month.  I am terrible at it, but that does not matter.  I meet friends and have a good time in a smoke-free atmosphere and I stay sober doing it.  (I have never been big on alcohol when I am out on the town.)  I rather like the chicken taquitos at the Billiards Palace on Wyoming.

A great deal of my life has been lived passively (and passive aggressively). This year I have moved toward a more proactive stance in many areas. Whereas many friends in the past have been people I met with or through the church or Bill and his family, now I meet new folks on my own.  I am trying to connect my friends with each other so there is a network of friendship to journey through life together.  This becomes especially important as we grow older. Very few desire a lonely old age; I know I do not.  I am becoming more comfortable around larger groups of people.  This is very new and I think as I feel safer being myself this is increasingly possible.

This week I hosted Christmas dinner at my home, a first.  Others helped bring food and serve and clean up but I did clean, decorate, cook, and then serve a multi-course meal for ten people.  This is huge and was most enjoyable.

I want to send a shout out also to my coworkers who are not just folks I work with.  We are a close team and in a rather impressive way are there for each other.  They are friends, not just fellow office mates.  Some of them have put up with an incredible amount of me processing aloud, going through my rather all-over-the-map emotions this year.  Bless them for their patience, understanding, and support.

Online friends, some of whom I am blessed to have met in "meat time," have supported me this year and my family has also been supportive.  I am surrounded with so much love and friendship it is staggering and I give thanks daily for it.

Four very significant men entered my life this year.  No, I do not have a new partner, though my soul mate does have a new partner who is a wonderful chap and counts as one of the significant men in my life.  I rejoice for the two of them.  Each of the four has contributed something important to my life journey.  The stories of how they did so are complex and private but all have changed me and I have some amazing new friendships.

This has been a year of therapy.  I had physical therapy for my damaged arthritic shoulder and have moved from 24/7 pain to only occasional pain as I make certain movements.  I have a new massage therapist who works on joints, connecting tissues, and pressure points and makes my body feel better.  I have begun psychotherapy again and feel good about that process, though it is going to difficult and painful.

In May Bill and I spent a week in Istanbul, an amazing trip.  I may post photos here, though I never finished posting photos of the Rome and Florence trip way back when and in between Italy and Turkey we had two weeks in Paris.  Oh well, I will post whatever whenever I can.

Since the trip to Turkey I lost 35 pounds and went down six inches in waist size. This was through more careful eating.  Exercise still lies ahead.

 Next year I will semi-retire and hope to get to the gym and have other exercise regularly, get back to writing novels, and spend more time reading, traveling, and feeding friends.

So there is your catch-up.

--The BB