testing the waters once more….

Dipping my feet back into the water with spirituality with “The Bhagavad Gita.”

I am fulfilled. the elements of nature, the body and senses, what are they to me? or the mind? what is emptiness or despair?

I am boundless space. the world is a clay pot. this is the truth. there is nothing to accept. nothing to reject, nothing to dissolve.

know you are one, pure awareness.  with the fire of this conviction burn down the forest of ignorance.  free yourself from sorrow and be happy.

you are always the same, unfathomable awareness, limitless and free, serene and unperturbed.  desire only your own awareness.

the ultimate consciousness is always present everywhere. it is always present everywhere. it is beyond space and time with not before or after.  it is undesirable and obvious. so what can be said about it? you are it.

the birth and dissolution of the cosmos itself takes place in me. there is nothing that exists separate me.  the entire universe is suspended from me as my necklace of jewels.

Water for my soul….

Embarrassed

Shortly before one of my favorite bands, Radiohead, released one of my favorite albums, KID A, I remember reading an interview with their lead singer, Thom Yorke in Rolling Stone.  He previewed the albums stark contrast with their previous work.  As the interview progressed it became apparent that many of the signature Radiohead sounds would be missing on this album.  Chiefly, Yorke pointed out, gone were the guitars–or at least guitars that sounded like guitars.  The interviewer pushed to know why the band felt the need to make such a drastic departure.  Why ditch the guitars he asked.  The Radiohead frontman made a comment I’ve never really been able to forget the gist of:  “I guess all of us just hit this point where we’ve become embarrassed that we play them. We need other sounds. Sounds that we’re not embarrassed of. I mean, everybody can play the guitar.”

What struck me at the time is that the boys of Radiohead weren’t just any old guitar players. They were innovative, deeply creative, and technically brilliant.  If anyone had a right to KEEP playing guitar, it was them.  But somehow the baggage of those shitty bands around them, the Radiohead wanna-be’s, the knock-off’s, the un-artful imitations made them hit the wall.  Not only that, but also they felt they had taken guitar playing as far as they could while still being inspired.  It was time to set aside the thing that had defined them and they had also, in part, helped define.

The album that came out of that, KID A, was incredible, and it was, as the interview had promised, devoid of anything that sounded like a guitar.  They managed to reinvent themselves and did so beautifully.

Last year, and several albums later, they came out with the latest and greatest–an incredible work called “In Rainbows.”  Interestingly, the guitars were back.  It wasn’t exactly the original “Brit-pop” sound they had help pioneer.  But there were actual hooks and recognizable riffs.  Fans were happy, and so was the band.  Stepping away from the thing that they simultaneously loved and were embarrassed by, gave them license some time later to return and fall in love again.

Sometimes the sounds that we are familiar with–that we have given ourselves to completely–lose their luster.  Either we find ourselves no longer inspired by them or others have polluted the well we’ve drank from.  It seems, somehow, cheapened.  And we are embarrassed of those sounds.  We need to put them down for a time and simply hear or play with other melodies, other symphonic expressions.  But all in order to fall in love again…

And I wonder if this is happening…somehow, somewhere in me…is this the process I’m in?  Am I learning new languages so to embrace my mother-tongue more fully later on?  There are clearly no guarantees, I’m sure of that.  But perhaps…I suppose time will tell. Until then, I’m not so concerned with the sound making instrument–simply that I make sound at all…I hope that the music is still great.

Rumi, Movement, and Leaving my car a mystery

This morning I was listening to Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippetts. This particular show was on the Sufi poet and teacher, Rumi.  The guest quoted Rumi as having said something beautiful connected to the dance of the Dervishes, and it connects to several other thoughts I’ve been having lately. 

If you don’t plow the Earth it becomes hard and nothing will grow on it.  Just plow the earth of yourself–get moving. Don’t ask exactly what will happen—simply begin to move and see what comes of it.

Similarly, though in another vein, I remember someone saying something along the lines of keeping their car a mystery.  When asked for further clarification he said, ” If I take my car apart I’ll probably understand it better, but it just won’t drive any more.” 

This twin sense of simply beginning to move, to spin in circles, to plow the other, to resist taking the car apart, seems noteworthy this morning. 

Who do I say I love when I love my God…a promise…a call…a mystery…a Love and a Lover… and these are the things I myself become as I join that dance.

Thoughts from the Hassadim…

God is both Person and Nonperson for the Hasid. God becomes Person by assuming intellect and emotions in order to become known to man. However, that is NOT God per say, but an emmanation of God.  God is Absolute and unrelating Infinite (Ain Sof) before the contradiction of God’s Light, or what is known. God’s Light is and is not identical with Ain Sof, just as the sunlight is and is not identical with the Sun. In the lower worlds, in “creation” God’s Presence is Shekhinah. Shekhinah is personified as the Divine Spouce, our Divine Mother, who is in exile. The Shekhinah is held prisoner in innumerable little sparks, awaiting redemption in our hands….–Wrapped in Holy Flames: Teachings of the Hasidic Masters

Bono Wants Your Soul…

Bono wants to know where your soul is this year.

I come to lowly church halls and lofty cathedrals for what purpose? I search the Scriptures to what end? To check my head? My heart? No, my soul. For me these meditations are like a plumb line dropped by a master builder — to see if the walls are straight or crooked. I check my emotional life with music, my intellectual life with writing, but religion is where I soul-search.

The preacher said, “What good does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” Hearing this, every one of the pilgrims gathered in the room asked, “Is it me, Lord?” In America, in Europe, people are asking, “Is it us?”

Well, yes. It is us.–READ MORE HERE.

Shifting Social Structures

I remember how I used to think about systemic change, even though I probably didn’t use those words.  First, you needed a vision from which you then developed a strategy.  You then, either vaguely or concretely, outlined a time line of what you needed and when, and then you formed alliances.  People who bought into the vision were considered extensions of myself, little mirrors of my identity.  People who did not buy into the vision as outlined, quickly descended down the path of 1) The Other (not quite me…different…) 2) The Stranger (unrelatable…completely removed from my experiences…viewed with suspicion) 3) The Monster (vilified…often necessary to destroy or remove altogether). 

Underlying that kind of “strategic planning” were some basic assumptions.  Change was perceived as being top down and as requiring a level of management or control.  Change was viewed as a slow moving creature with long range implications with behavior as a mandated commodity, enforced by rewards/punishment.  Additionally, large scale changes were seen as depending on large scale efforts. 

But this really is inconsistent with how we view life at work in the world around us.  Margaret Wheatley, writer and teacher, suggests that the complex “emergent” phenomena follow a specific cycle: local action —> connection —->system.  Interestingly, within that little formula the only “controllable” aspect is the conditions for connectivity.  In other words, the thing that happens at the individual or local level is fairly free form and spontaneous.  The large scale “system” is almost unmovable or irreversible by the time it emerges.  This leaves only the middle point, connection, as within our ability to modulate or mediate.  In other words, if we are interested in “global” systemic change we ought not focus on the large system or the local network; we must focus on the place for committed connection.

I’ve been mulling these sorts of thoughts over in preparation for the Emergent Village “re-imaging” event.  How do I apply these types of thoughts to that environment?  As I’ve considered it, some of my brainstorming has included the following directive/suggestive thoughts:

1. Major on connecting:Internet, social networks, forums, conferences, etc

2.  Promote learning: resources, innovations, experiments

3.  Evolve Practice

In order to do these effectively it might become necessary to:

1. Cultivate institutional resources to develop connections

2. Bring practitioners (and curious) together more often for “think-tank” experiments (not unlike this upcoming one)

3. Seek Divergence–bring people from other idea fountains and experiences to share. Provide a space for insiders to become outsiders again…opportunity for conversion.

4.  Support local movements/cohortsthrough providing resources, ideas, on line forums, etc…but also encourage them to gather in regional connections.

In principle create an environment that supports local experiment that watches for and supports supportive dynamics and belief systems. 

All of this falls within the framework Wheately nicely establishes,   “Support diversity AND viability among practitioners”

It’s a tight rope being walked, there’s no doubt.  However, with imagination, authenticity and experiment I believe it can be done.

My future and the Emergent Church

In spite of current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible. This is good news for those of us intent on changing the world or creating a positive future. Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections.  We don’t need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits. Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage, and commitment that lead to broad based change.–Margaret J Wheatley,  “Using Emergence to Take Social Innovations to Scale”

This next week I have the opportunity of participating in a conversation taking place regarding the future of Emergent Village, a central voice within the larger emerging church movement.  The quote above is part of the reading we were asked to do as we prepare for the intensive time together.  It’s encouraging because it invites people into relationship–and that’s what this upcoming time (and really the whole of the emerging movement) seems to be about.  I don’t know exactly what to expect, but I imagine there will be a deeper experience of the stories of God’s creative energy moving in and through people.  I hope that the relationships built during this time will begin to help create a ferment for meaning and hopeful engagements going forward, in many of our lives. 

I have to confess, in some ways Ifeel like an outsider to “the conversation”.  I’ve spent the last decade taking a “time out” from sexy culturally relevant “church”.  Instead I embraced a deconstructed “primitive church” model, filled with “flat leadership” and intentional proximity community.  It’s been a great ride, but it also makes me feel as if I’m playing catch up on “what’s going on”.  On the other hand, perhaps this last chapter in life might provide a context to share more deeply from.  I feel like, in some ways, many of the ideals being touted today, can come across as high intentioned theoretics.  But part of my life has been trying to “work those out” and take them to their logical conclusion. God, I’ve learned a lot of lessons. I feel like an 80 year old man sometimes.  At times I’m too exhausted to imagine “what next”.

Whatever these next steps are for me, they will be ones laced with a sense of being compelled forward.  They can’t be the next thing, or the cool thing, or what seems right…they must truly be a propelling ahead.

Certainly things are shifting, all over the world, I don’t think it can be seen any other way…People are exploring the lines of intersection between faith and culture, between content and container, between the things we thought were essential but were just applicable to an other time…Now, that’s an interesting dialog to be a part of.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

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