Monday, April 25, 2005

Totally Cool Coincidences

Coincidence Factor (CF for short) #1: Watching the biopic/religious/historical epic film "Luther", about Martin Luther, the spiritual firebrand theologian who threatened the regal power of the Papacy in 15th century Europe.

CF #2: The week following my viewing of 'Luther', Pope Benedict XVI (formerly Cardinal Josef Ratzinger) was chosen as the successor to St. Peter and the more than two hundred fifty popes who have led the Roman Catholic Church.

CF #3: Staying up late the other night on a whim, I am flipping channels and get the beginning of Pope Benedict's first mass as Pope in St. Peter's Square. I can't really stand looking at his creepy Bela Lugosi eyes and turn it off once they start panning to him every two seconds.

CF #4: Watched 'I Heart Huckabees' last night for the first time. Trippy movie. Made me think a lot about...coincidences.

CF #5: New visitor Ben uses the phrase 'coincidences of ours' in his comment to my last post. Not sure if it's a "Huckabees" reference but close enough. Coincidence!

CF #6: Got this email today from the University of Creation Spirituality/Wisdom University, a New Age-y, eclectic spiritual institute that I'm not big into but that I still respect, mostly because excommunicated former priest (and Bay Area resident) Matthew Fox is their head honcho of sorts. I've met him a couple of times; he's a cool guy, if not a little egotistical, but hey, when someone's the spiritual equivalent of an international rock star, what can one expect?

Here's an excerpt from the email:

"There are many exciting things happening to which I would like to draw to your attention. 

We are developing an extraordinary and provocative strategy for Matt, given the fact that his nemesis Josef Ratzinger is now Pope.  Matt is writing a letter to Ratzinger challenging him to make good on his assertion in his first mass after his installation on April 24th  to "listen to the whole church" by meeting first with all those he expelled or silenced while he was Head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. As you know, scores of other leading theologians and priests besides Matt were silenced or expelled by Ratzinger in the squelching of dissent while he was Head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, including Hans Kung, a German theologian, and Leonardo Boeff, a Brazilian Jesuit.   All of them are being invited to co-sign Fox's letter.

Additionally, Matt is preparing a manifesto called "The New Reformation: Toward a Mature Christianity", in which he proclaims that we are in fact confronted with two churches: one dominated by the image of the punitive father, personified by the long and harsh career of Ratzinger himself and his long suppression of internal dissent, rejection of other religions,
and protection of pedophile priests; and the other expressed by the feminine spirit of Wisdom and personified by a compassionate mother/father god of justice and compassion.  It is time for the church to choose whom it will follow:  an angry exclusionary god or the loving open path of wisdom.

To dramatize his letter and his Proclamation, Matthew will be preaching a sermon on Pentacost Sunday May 15 in Germany near Frankfurt. He will proclaim the need for a new reformation and expound the choices before the church, while inviting the Pope to meet with him and others who like him were silenced or expelled.  If all goes according to plan, he will then travel to Wittenberg, where Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses at the Cathedral in 1517, and nail his Proclamation on the same church doors.

From Wittenberg, he will travel to Rome where at the gates of St. Peter's Cathedral he will challenge Ratzinger to a debate about the future of Christianity at this moment of historical crisis and opportunity.

Isn't this totally cool?"

Yes, it is. Totally f**ckin' cool. My meditation-induced hopefulness is gettin' a turbo charge outta this sh*t.

In Peace,

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Slowing Down, Waking Up

It's been an interesting couple of months since I've been relatively blogpost-less...I cut down on reading blogs as well as writing on my own, and it was a good thing. It is always important to take a break from things, even if you love them--and especially if you dislike or get stressed out by them. I've learned the hard way that if things are too difficult for too long, I am doing something wrong, repeating an unhealthy pattern over and over, not learning from my mistakes.

There are so many huge events that have recently transpired in the world, in this particular moment in time in which we are living; things that have inspired passionate arguments between me and my partner, my co-workers, my friends. The Terri Schiavo tragedy (aka the media circus that was created around her and her family's suffering), Pope John Paul II dying, the Papal Conclave taking only a day-and-a-half to choose the new Pope, an arch-conservative who wants to make the Church 'smaller but purer.' So many frightening things, yet I--and we--must figure out where the bright spots are, the rays of hope in the ominous shadows.

Interestingly, H. and I happened to watch the film 'Luther' the weekend before Pope Benedict XVI was chosen. The film is about Martin Luther, founder of the 'Great Reformation' which shook the Roman Catholic Church and spread throughout Europe like wildfire in the 15th (?) century. I spent a good part of the film explaining some of the historical background of Roman Catholic 'indulgences' and other corrupt practices to H., who grew up fairly non-religious and often recoils in shock at the strange Church customs that I grew up with as normal everyday occurrences. It's good to have to explain the culture and customs of the Church to an outsider, because it sheds light on how absurd, illogical and sometimes downright disgusting some of these customs are--and how, in many ways, they are counter to the development of a truly authentic spirituality based on compassion, tolerance, faith and love.

I don't really know what to say about the new Pope, or about the state of the Catholic Church today. Others have quite articulately stated opinions that I wholeheartedly agree with: John Nichols, Leny (thanks for the welcome back and congrats on your new book!) and Rhett (see March 31 and April 6 posts, specifically), for starters. It's healing to hear and read the voices of other progressive Christians / Catholics (recovering or currently active) expressing skepticism, fear or even optimism about the Church's direction. And even though I haven't gone to Mass in months, I still know that the Church is a hugely influential institution in the world, on the one hand, and I still have a deep love for many of the teachings and the lessons I learned growing up in the Church the first eighteen years of my life.

In contrast to my recent thoughts and mixed feelings regarding the future of the Catholic Church, I have been meditating a lot more lately, and recently attended a day-long meditation retreat for people of color activists at Spirit Rock. The retreat inspired and energized me, and strengthened both my interest and faith in Buddhist meditation and the Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha as handed down for the past two-thousand-five-hundred years or so). I felt such peace in sitting, walking and eating meditation (yes, eating--have you ever slowed down and just paid attention to what you were eating instead of reading the paper, talking to your partner or scarfing down your food in five seconds flat? Notice how flavors become more intense?) with my comrades and colleagues, and realized how simple yet profound Buddhist practice is. Breathe, slow down, notice, be present. I just paid attention to what I was doing for the first time in weeks.

I've carried this mindful approach into the rest of my daily life, and I think it's really helping. I feel less judgmental, more compassionate of others, less prone to cling to my angry, unhelpful attitudes and thoughts. I even feel compassion and near-forgiveness for some of the people that I have hated in the past--which doesn't mean I'm rushing out to embrace them and welcome them back into my life, but it feels much better to be more at peace with them in my own mind than to allow myself to be constantly bitter and triggered, and to waste precious energy on spitefulness and negativity that I could put to more positive uses in the worl.

I feel I am awakening to a whole new reality. Sometimes it's a little frightening, but more and more it just makes me feel happy and hopeful that a new, better world is unfolding around me.

In Peace,

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Deadline-free (for now)

Hello there, dear readers. I'm back for a bit from my month of deadline after deadline. Since we last chatted, I won a lil' essay contest (along with some money--woo-hoo!), got myself into an online writers' group for fiction/speculative fiction (or SF for short) writers, and applied for a summer writing workshop that I've been wanting to get into for a few years but never made the time for.

It's been a productive past few weeks, to say the least, and I'm feeling great about my writing. The novel is coming along well, and I finally finished a short story that I started--no kidding--FIVE years ago. Whoa. It felt great to finally put it to bed (for now, at least, until I get it into a workshop so it can get critiqued!).

I've also started going to Kali class again, hoping to make it out there at least once a week. It feels good to spar, to wield my stick and empty hands, to be in community with other martial artists again. I've missed Kali practice, although I think the break from class was necessary too. Sometimes you notice things about your practice that are crucial only when you leave it for awhile. I think this is true for writing, for Kali, for anything.

I am also meditating more lately, partially because it's something I've been telling myself I need to do for my own spiritual well-being, but also partially because of some minor health problems I'm having that the doctors say is caused by anxiety/stress. I've known for a long time that I am a type-A, slightly paranoid stress-case, but I thought I had it all under control (don't we all?)! But seems like my body and mind could use more stillness, so I'll be loggin' more minutes on the ol' meditation cushion.

I hope all is well in your world. Don't forget to stop and breathe once and awhile.