Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I thought the prayer was commonly known to be that of Sir Francis Drake, Elizabethan Explorer/ Pirate, but a couple of people have asked me about it, so credit is due to him.

Sorry 'bout that.

Getting Directions

Disturb us, Lord, when We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

I’ve wanted to write about something I know nothing about. In fact, I’ve been avoiding writing about it for several days It’s been near the center of my conscious life since November of ’06—no, a lot longer than that, several decades at least. Maybe since I learned “Now I lay me down to sleep”.


I mean, I’m a Christian, among other ways to describe myself, yet I sometimes feel like the least of those; prayer, or, more accurately, the lack of it or my frustrations with it, being one of the major reasons. I don’t know what I’m expecting, or why I’m frustrated, or what, if anything, I should be doing, or not doing, differently. I read about it, and think I’ve got a handle on it, but it escapes my grasp so quickly; “I fall down, and must get back up.”

I believe one of the reasons I found the Episcopal Church congenial is its encouragement of corporate prayer—the community, gathered and scattered, is one at prayer. There are times for prayer, and places devoted to prayer, and, when people say, “I’ll pray for ___”, I had a sense that, whatever they were doing, they were doing what they called “prayer” on a regular basis. Nor did I ever feel excluded or pressured; it was there: nothing more.

With that help, I’ve joined in; I attend worship, both Sunday Eucharist and Holy Day observances, regularly, and I use the Daily Office (online, thanks to the sisters of St Clare in Cal-e-forn-eye- a). A wonderful ex gave me a copy of Benedict’s Rule, with Sr. Joan’s most helpful commentary, which I sporadically use. I am starting yoga as a Christian discipline. And yet. Still. Perhaps “my heart is restless”.

The immediate issue is a search for a Spiritual Director, a person trained to check in with a wayfarer to help her/ him discern what is of Godde, and what is dross. I’ve tried this twice before, but now see I wasn’t ready, wasn’t prepared to bring an engaged prayer life to the discussion. How is this time different, or is it?

That answer can wait. Evaluation follows action. I am searching along two paths: local and not so local, to see if I may find a guide. I have had a sense, for over a year, that something is waiting for me to come to meet it, and that this is the issue in my life.

So, friends, whatever you call it—prayer, meditation, good vibes, kindly thoughts, or no name at all—please; I need all the help I can get. And thank you all for your help thus far.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Big Sky

a rare weather phenomenon, which I never saw in five years there. Taken in Hastings, NE. It is caused by supersaturated air, which is much colder than that near the surface, dropping suddenly, being heavier than the warmer, drier air at the surface.

Friday, January 25, 2008

What Happened

Anyway, you couldn't use standard methods to date the doom;
might as well say Vietnam was where the Trail of Tears was headed
all along, the turnaround point where it would touch and come back
to from a containing perimeter; might just as well lay it on the Proto-Gringos
who found the New England woods too raw and empty for their peace
and filled them up with their own imported devils.

Michael Herr. Dispatches. Alfred A. Knopf. New York: 1978. p. 49

"What Happened? Where did America go?"

Merle Haggard

What happened:

I don’t follow politics closely—it seems too often to make trivial things too important and to belittle the reality of our lives, but I do comment on general trends on OPB (Other Peoples’ Blogs). Lately I hear much squabbling about whether former President Clinton was overly rude in calling Sen. Obama’s candidacy a “fairy tale.” or if Senator Clinton is too calculating, too bitchy
or too much a girl.

Part of it seems to me a question of “where did America go?” Given the Bush administration’s record, a majority of Americans are asking, in myriad ways, “What happened? How did we get in such an awful mess? When did this start?”

The Historian in me wants to refer to Captain Ralph Lane, a brutal mercenary veteran of the Reformation wars, who treated the indigenous peoples of coastal North Carolina as expendable, a nuisance or, at best, potentially slaves.

This does not deny that many found freedom and opportunity in the New World, but it recognizes the very many who did not (Italian immigrants were considered “People of Color” as recently as 1924 by Congress). Many made it to the “promised land”, but many also paid a horrendous price.

In the current debates, the time frame is more limited; may we return to Clinton to repudiate this current plague, or is it more deeply rooted? Shall we go back to examine the “Reagan Revolution”, or is that a partisan misnomer? I think a return to the controversies of the Sixties is far enough; current politics still seems to me shaped by a refusal to accept the reality of and the reasons for our defeat in Indochina. I could, of course, be wrong.

The questions that shaped the Cold War, of which Vietnam was the avatar, still shape our political discourse; they still largely determine the ways we view the world, and prepare to deal with it. We still view the rest of the world, by and large, as market or source of raw materials, though “raw materials” may be directed to other, cheaper labor areas, so long as America retains control, to maintain “a standard of living acceptable to the American people”. It is impossible to deny this convincingly with the current war in (or “on”) the Middle East. Our expanding economy, which is deemed essential to our prosperity, depends on it. Otherwise, we should be forced to a “command economy”, we are told, in which our liberties would be so curtailed as to compel us to resist it.

It’s time we called “Bullshit!” If we cannot enjoy our “standard of living” without exploiting others, it is past time to cut back. I have no idea how such questions may ever be addressed in U S politics.

Jimi Hendrix Star-Spangled Banner at 1819 hours GMT

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More Sayings of Baby Scarlett

I Got Nothin

So I follow the lead of many of my exemplars--no, not waiting till I have something to say; are you serious?--but posting a photo or two.

Sayings of Miss Scarlett

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

MLK, Jr. Redux

"Lien phat lo trung thap vi can

The lotus, blooming in the furnace, does not lose its freshness"

Ngo An, 11th c. CE Vietnamese Zen Monk,
as quoted in Thich Nhat Hanh. Vietnam: Lotus in
a Sea of Fire. Hill & Wang. New York: 1967

It's the day after the holiday, and the week after his birthday. Most of us remembered and perhaps honored King's life yesterday, and have returned to our affairs. Jane R, Girl Reporter, sans pareil et sans reproche, among other things, at Acts of Hope, has posted King's famous Riverside Church sermon of April 4, 1967, one year to the day before he was assassinated. As a student of the History of U S Foreign Relations and sometime university Instructor in "Twentieth Century America", I was pleasantly surprised to see the accuracy and depth of King's knowledge in early 1967. It should be a "must-read", together with "I Have A Dream" and "Letter From Birmingham Jail". Go to Acts Of Hope for the speech; the wise will linger to savor one of the best blogs anywhere on any topic, IMRVHO (In My Rarely Very Humble Opinion.)

Precisely a year after this sermon, in the early evening, in Memphis, King was assassinated. As some one, Sadie Baker, I think, noted, the troops were called out to America's cities to "maintain order"; some of those troops being Black combat veterans just back home from Vietnam.

I know this not from personal experience, even at second-hand; I was barely aware that Dr. King had been killed for some days, for, just past midnight on that April 4th Pacific time, I had walked across the tarmac to a Cathay Pacific chartered Boeing 707, Honolulu at about 0330 local time, some night covered speck in the Pacific--Wake or Guam, seized in the Nineteenth century as coaling and refurbishing stations for the thrust of U S power to China-- after another eight hours flight, then another eight to arrive just after Noon the same day I left, though some 24 hours had passed: Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam.

Those who fly know the experience of "Airport Land": being a little isolated and one or two steps away from the ordinary flow of life; this was airport land "at its finest". Everything was prepared for us, to move us from where we were to where we were going, with no outside interference. For several days it seemed as if the outside world didn't exist. For 392 days, to be more precise. And yet more precise: every day since 4 April 68, though I still am learning what this means to my life, with more help than I am able to tell.

King's sermon to Clergy and Laity Concerned at the Riverside Church brings me back to mourn that lost opportunity he spoke of, six years before the war ended, the opportunity to be the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. Losing it then, I joined those throughout the world who question the truth of that line that ends our National Anthem, because they are people of color, or poor, or female, or gay, or live somewhere else besides "the Land of the Big PX" (think shopping mall). And to mourn the present he hoped we might avoid: more war, blood, treasure, and good will squandered by callous fools.

After seven years of this horror of an administration, in the midst of a Presidential campaign, in the midst of a war (did you remember that?), some may ask "Where did this begin? What happened to us?" as King did, and urged us to do, in 1967. It did not begin with Dubya, however much he exemplifies our national nightmare, nor even with Reagan. So many no longer know history, even our own (Why should they?) perhaps we can no longer fix a specific time. No matter. I believe this leads us to think our wounds and our faults as a nation are more superficial than they are in reality. I remember the anguish of another patriot,

"they have treated the wound of
my people carelessly,
saying, 'Peace, peace.'
when there is no peace"

Jeremiah 8:11 (NRSV)

May Godde have mercy on them and us

Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin L. King, Jr.

No borrowed images nor video downloads this time, just an attempt to paint in words a memory of King.

It was the last of the great Southern Civil Rights marches--Early Summer, 1966-- past their effectiveness, I believe. SNCC was introducing the slogan "Black Power" and the clenched fist, which revealed the complexity of the struggle for justice. The great Civil Rights Bills had been passed into federal law the year before.

We had driven from Little Rock, then several of us decided to drive north from Jackson Mississippi, to join the march as it made its way South on the main highway. We adapted quickly to march life: all kinds of people in casual clothes--tens of thousands--walking, talking, drinking water or soft drinks, pausing as a small group to begin a freedom song or a march chant; it was an enchanted place.

Sometime that late hot afternoon, I noticed people also would move off the road to a shady clearing, to rest and talk. I was noticing this happen yet again when I realized one of them, in a open sport shirt and slacks, and a sporty straw hat, had a face the world knew, but few had seen in person: King.

He was with a few others, as I suppose he almost always was by then, though I don't remember noticing if it was Ralph Abernathy or Andy Young, or even Stokely Carmichael.

King was sitting on the grass, knees drawn up and resting his arms on them. He looked, from maybe thirty feet away, to be hot, tired and wondering "What am I doing this for?": a very human look. I wanted to go introduce myself, shake the famous hand, and offer thanks and praise from a poor white country boy, but thought he might well appreciate an unguarded moment for himself, in the midst of the conflagration, so I did not.

There were other famous people around that weekend--Marlon Brando paying for his breakfast at the motel coffee shop in Jackson Sunday morning was one, but I don't remember them much. I do cherish the memory of seeing Dr. King as simply another human being, a child of Godde, in our midst: just like us.

Saint? Great teacher and American Prophet? The Greatest American? The last may be open to discussion, perhaps, though it is my view. A light to lead all people to justice, despite his failings (Yes, he had them , as we all do).

Living Spirit of justice,
we praise you and thank you
for the example of your servant Martin
and long to see the Promised Land
of your justice for all people

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Another Thing: the Title of this Blog

is a shout-out to Sweet Honey In The Rock, the sistahs from whose "I Believe" on Sacred Ground the line is taken, to Brother Arnold down by the Riverside, (do you want a plug here, AT? heh.) who introduced me to their work, all of which, in its many glorious facets, is highly recommended,

"...I'm here, still running; I believe", a rich line to me, as I hope will become apparent if "this thing" live.

I'm more in a Robert Johnson or Howlin Wolf frame of mind tonight, I think. GMT2218 20.01.08
An Update:

For those indulgent friends who are seeing me through this stage of what may not last, or amount to very much, or some poor wayfarin' stranger: welcome and peace be with you all. I have not managed to make the title of the blog and its web address (and original title, which cher Mimi was gracious to praise as Zen: maybe, says Henry Hankovitch, zen guitar, which is a poetry reference, PJ, if anyone gets back this far into the wilderness.

And thanks to my brother vet AZ (guess where he lives, eh?) for the beautiful header photo; I hope ya approve, man; Bunkie liked it, even ED admitted it!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Is this all? Oh well. Whatever. Never mind.