Brenda Ueland – Author and Hero

Brenda lived most of her life writing and teaching in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the city where I grew up, and within a mile or two of where I have lived most of my life.

I was well into my forties before I even knew who she was, and from the moment I read her book: If You Want to Write I knew that I had found a mentor whose simple prose and honesty could guide me in the maturation of my own work.

Brenda, taught writing at the YWCA, she published a memoir about her life growing up in Minneapolis and  she wrote as a columnist for local newspapers and magazines, she wrote for national publications like Harper’s as well.

Brenda was born in Minneapolis at the end of the nineteenth century; she spent her twenties in New York City where she was connected to various movements in arts, literature and politics. She was a proto-feminist and a revolutionary thinker, and she came to all of that with a simple self-assuredness that was her defining characteristic.

This is why she is a hero to me…her teaching, which she summarized in her treatise on writing, provides the most simple and profound guidance: she tells her students to find their own voice and write from there.

She encourages people to simply be themselves, to tell their stories with the written word as if they were speaking to their closest friend, to shout when they are shouting, and to whisper in the time of whispering.

She told them to be true to themselves, to write with authenticity, because she says: the reader will know if you are faking.

She encourages people to listen to themselves, and to become familiar with the sound of their own voice.

Her book on writing had been out of print for nearly forty years until, a few years after her death in the 1980’s when it went back into production and became a best seller.

Like Brenda herself, her book was ahead of its time, and is the best treatise on writing I have ever read.

Below is an essay I wrote as a response to her advice:

Inspiration and Futility

Alternating Between the Poles

This essay examines the role that inspiration has played in my creative life; as a writer, as a thinker, as an academic.

Inspiration is a broad and multi-faceted subject, I focus on three aspects: the moment, the content, and the expression of inspiration.

So that I may avoid engendering the misperception that my creative life has been an extended moment of awe, mystery and transcendence, I will also present a discussion of my struggles with a deep and pervasive sense of futility regarding my creative mission, a negativism that has dogged me like a cynic over the years.

I have a sharp sense for the inspired moment, moments that come in many ways, and not all of them my own.

There are not enough hours in the day for me to list the catalysts that have informed my creative drive, but when they come together, those disparate things and beings, those moments when memories interact with consciousness in real-time, when relationships become apparent that had never before been discerned, when, like alchemy, or a flash in the pan…wham!

The creative spirit comes.

In those moments, when my attention is keen, my attention is singular, a path toward the end of a creative ambition becomes clear, and my will becomes fixed on a specific set of steps, like the choreography of a dance. That is the inspired state, when burgeoning insight is precipitously balanced with a readiness to act.

These moments come to all of us, we sense them when they do. The wise will seize them, dwell within them, and linger in their space.

True inspiration is more than a feeling.

The truly inspired moment comes into consciousness with content, it is the flash that both illuminates and enlightens. It is a flare in the dark whose sudden eruption points the way, either out, or in.

When inspired content first springs to mind it is like that brief look you are allowed, of the image you are trying to construct from a jig-saw puzzle. There it is, in your mind, for a moment, and now you have to put it all together with only the memory of that vision to guide you.

The inspired moment is more than a feeling, more than awe, more than a sense of mystery, or of transcendence, but feeling is an essential part of it, and that feeling is not a tepid one.

Inspiration is light; yes, but not without heat. It is hot with imperative, with the command to do; to write, to stand, to move.

Inspiration is like the germination of a seed, a seed that is fully formed in its flower, and expressed completely in its fruit.       

Inspiration is a force. It is dynamic. In a literal way, inspiration is the movement of the Spirit within us, enlivening, vivifying, it is as much a part of us as the air we breathe. It is a “divine guidance or influence exerted directly on the soul of humankind.”[1]

To speak of inspiration in its aspects, or its parts, is somewhat artificial, perhaps impossible, as if when speaking of a wave you can name its peak, and its trough, without acknowledging that the two are essentially one, alternating and changing.

The inspired moment must be followed by a genuine enthusiasm for the work that lies ahead, enthusiasm which is itself synonymous for the indwelling of the divine.[2] When the inspired moment comes we must find a way to let it be within us.[3]

Inspiration is personal. It occurs in the lives of real people, and though it comes with great power, it is nevertheless subject to the cares and concerns of the individual, but the caring for it comes throughout the course of our daily lives.

Brenda Ueland says this about inspiration:

Inspiration does not (in fact) come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving but it comes to us slowly and quietly all of the time. But we must regularly and every day give it a chance to start flowing, and prime it with a little solitude and idleness. I learned that when writing you should not feel like Lord Byron on a mountaintop, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten – happy, absorbed, and quietly putting one bead on after another.[4]

It may appear that Brenda has said something different or contradictory to what I said about inspiration in part I of this essay, but she and I are not necessarily speaking to divergent ends.

I have talked about the power of inspiration as a force, about its flash and dynamism. Brenda says that inspiration it is not that. I have been talking about the beginning of inspiration, she is talking about what comes after the inspired moment.

Brenda is talking about living with inspiration, about the inspired life that comes after the vision, she is talking about the falling rain, after the thunder claps and the clouds burst.

What Brenda is talking about is the more important part of inspiration. The inspired moment may fill us with vision and give us purpose, but nobody (nobody that I know of) can live out their lives in that ecstatic state.

Inspiration is like electricity. There is so much power in it. To stay in the inspired moment forever would burn us up.

The key to living with inspiration, to carrying out the inspired visionwe have received, is to regulate that power. We regulate it through habit, ritual and disciplined work, like stringing beads together in kindergarten, Brenda says we must allow for some downtime, in order to give our circuitry a break.

Having space, being quiet, experiencing emptiness, these are essential for cultivating inspiration.

Doris Lessing, says in her Nobel acceptance speech[5]: “Have you found that space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write? Into that space, which is a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas—inspiration.”

Like Brenda Ueland, Doris Lessing is talking more about the care for, and the nurturing of, the creative-will within us, what I would call the expression of inspiration and the cultivation of its content. This is something that should be differentiated from the inspired moment itself.

In Part II of this essay, Nobel Laureate, Doris Lessing strikes the most vital point. She addresses the need to listen, to listen to one’s self.

It is altogether easy to listen to our inner critic, that insipid, clamoring voice knows exactly how to get our attention, but how much more important, and life giving is it to listen to our creative voice, to hearken to it music, and care for it, like the gardener who cares for the tender shoot as it pokes its stem up from the soil to unfurl its fronds.

For art to find its expression we must give our creative voice the attention it deserves, turn to it rather than the noisome din of the inner critic?

We must listen to the clear pealing of the bell, whether it is faint or loud.

Brenda Ueland said this in reference to the power of listening in her essay Tell Me More:

I want to write about the great and powerful thing that listening is, and how we forget it. And how we don’t listen…to those we love. And least of all, to those we don’t love. Because listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force.

When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life…It makes people happy and free when they are listened to.

When we listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other. Now this little creative fountain is in all. It is the spirit, or the intelligence, or the imagination—whatever you want to call it. If you are tired, strained, have no solitude, run too many errands, talk to too many people, drink too many cocktails, this little fountain is muddied over and covered with a lot of debris. The result is that you stop living from the center…it is when people really listen to us, with quiet fascinated attention, that the little fountain begins to work again, to accelerate in the most surprising ways.[6]

Take these words about listening, about how we feel when we are listened to and relate them to our creativity.

If we can slow down, be fascinated with our ideas, and attentive to our own needs, then we will have the time to express our creative voice.

If we listen to the stirring of the heart, that stirring will grow into a song, and then a chorus, with a symphony to follow. It will expand and unfold within us encompassing both our heights and our depths, extending itself throughout our lives while conjoining our peaks and troughs, making of them a singular unbroken wave.

What we have discussed to this point, in parts I – III of this essay, that is the flowering side of the garden. It is the place where we love to be, when everything is growing well and going right, but there are many times in our lives, countless times, when inspiration strikes and is not received. when it is received and not acted on, when it is acted upon and is not fulfilled.

There are many forces; both within us, and without, that are opposed to the power of inspiration. They are the menial and the mundane, the day to day duties that obscure our vision, the doubts that disrupt the voice of the muse, the cold fingers of fear clutching at the heart, tearing at the will, and the hand that stills them.

The death of inspiration comes through that inner critic, the one who tells us that our work is futile[7], frivolous, and useless, the one who spreads the debris and the clutter that covers the bright and bubbling fountain within us.

The Spirit blows where it will, and reaches everyone. The muses[8] sing to us all. Whether we think of the force of inspiration as divine, as a gift that comes from without, or as an innate power that is inherent to our being, as our “true self” speaking to us. When the moment comes we must, each of us, fit it into our busy lives, either that or forget about it and watch it fade away.

Brenda Ueland says[9] that “the true self is really the Conscience (or God)” not speaking to us about “morality or convention” but daring us to explore the “truth (in ourselves) toward bravery and the greater life.” When you find that truth, she says, your true self, “and see how gifted you are, you can write as slowly as you want to.” You can let the world be the world, and not let it set you off the course of fulfilling your vision.

The weal of our life will turn, our inspiration will rise with it, if we let it. We will lift from it, and jump off it, just as we reach the apex of the curve, or the moment will pass, as we cling to the wheel, as it turns around, and down we go, pushed into the ground of uselessness and futility.

I have been inspired, felt the spirit of inspiration move within me. I have been overcome by the hot flash of a great idea, felt the deep desire to act, heard the voice within me speaking; slowly, steadily, quietly; and at other times; fast, demanding, and loud. I have not always listened, but then again, I have not always known how.

The moment of inspiration can be startling. As awesome as inspiration can be, it is not always brought about by the sublime, the divine and the lovely. Truth, beauty, and goodness are not the only things that catch my attention or make me want to do something.

Sometimes I am moved by what is altogether mundane, human, and vicious, by evil, ugliness and lies. Sometimes I am moved not to stand up, but to take a stand, not to move, but to be unmoving.

When inspiration comes, the heart and the mind must be open. Inspiration may be triggered from outside of ourselves, from something we witness, such as the splendor of nature, a grand view, or a shocking event.

Inspiration may come from something small and simple, from a conversation, or a question. The moment may come, and go in an instant, leaving it up to us to make sense of its significance, to the mediation of our genius, or the daemon within us.[10]

There is an encounter that plays itself out in my consciousness over and over again. The encounter between my inspiration, and futility, by which I mean doubt about the purpose I feel that I am directed toward.

This is the dialog between my creative self and my inner critic.

For instance, I have been, and I am inspired to share with Christians the gospel as I understand it, which is a gospel centered on the hope of universal salvation.

My first encounter with this doctrine came out of my own active imagination, a discourse with my daemon, if you will. It came by thinking logically about some of the most basic claims that Christians make about God: that God is love, and loving; that God is all-powerful (omnipotent), that God has the perfect ability to accomplish God’s will; that God is all-knowing (omniscient), that God knows us, understands us, even as we know ourselves; that God is omnipresent (not, not-present in any space), that God is with us and God wants us with God.

These claims led me to the logical conclusion that, when all things are said and done, there are  no barriers to God having God’s way in the matter of our salvation.

If God truly wills the salvation of all people, which Christian doctrine claims that God does, then God will save all people.

My grasp of this argument came in a flash. It came as inspiration. It was both intuitive and revelatory, and it came when I was fairly young, at the age of fifteen.

In the ten years that followed I did not do much with this idea, except that I would using it in the occasional argument I might have with a fundamentalist Christian.

In that period there were moments when I would recapture that feeling of inspiration, but not every argument I pursued produced those feelings. When I would argue the doctrine with people who could grasp the logic, that feeling of inspiration would ignite inside of me, I would want to linger in the conversation and explore all of its implications, both in terms of human destiny, and in terms of the future of Christianity.

However, when my interlocutors could not grasp the logic, I often felt like Sisyphus, endlessly pushing that great rock up the hill. The same words and concepts that might delight me on one occasion, would on another occasion come out sounding like a drone in my ears.

Or, what was even worse for me were the occasions when I found myself talking and talking all night long, and really enjoying the sound of my voice, exalting in the feelings I got from my partner in dialog, or whoever else might be listening, but walking away at the end of it thinking that I had accomplished nothing more than the self aggrandized-stroking of my ego.

When I was twenty-five years old I was beginning to organize a research paper for my undergraduate major in theology. I deeply wanted to write about this doctrine. It was still inspiring me, and now it was motivating me to do something, to write, to research to demonstrate the validity of my claims in a formal way. I was moving beyond the arm-chair, outside of the coffee house, and though I was merely an undergraduate, I felt that I was doing real work in theology.

There was something else happening inside me as well. I was learning a lot. I was encountering more people, specifically, more educated people, people who wanted to argue with me, people who could hold up their end of the argument much better than the street corner variety of born-again-Christian.

I was also beginning to get a clear sense of the weight of history, of the philosophy of Christianity, its institutions, in its liturgy, and the power behind the traditional Christian doctrines that were arrayed against my simple logic.

It felt like that lil old ant, who thinks he can move that rubber tree plant. I had high hopes, but those hopes, and the inspired purpose that fueled them were frequently being assailed by a deepening sense of futility.

The question that my inner critic was asking me was this:

Is it possible for the most crystal-clear expression of the logic in Christian doctrine that I could change two thousand years of history and practice regarding the belief in hell and the theology of damnation?

Possible yes (I guess), but likely, no.

The creative spirit within me, my genius, was good at getting the last word, “keep working” it would say. “keep producing, keep on arguing.”

As an undergraduate I wrote my senior paper for my theology major on the topic of universal salvation, and then I doubled down on it and wrote my senior paper for my philosophy major on the same subject.

By the time I was done with that work, my research had uncovered some things for me.

The twentieth century had given the world many extremely intelligent, talented, philosophers and theologians who had been writing about this same topic. They were Oxford Dons, and University of Chicago Doctors, the alumni of one storied institution or another.

Their work inspired me. I wanted to lend my voice to theirs, carry on the good work, fight the good fight. However, the deeper I delved into the field, the more often I was faced with questions like this:

What is the point?

Why do I care?

If everyone is saved no matter what, why spend time and energy trying to convince people who do not believe it?

If in the end, it does not matter what a person believes, what church they belong to, why even bother with Christian Doctrine?

This is the voice of futility. It is my inner critic undermining me, attempting to convince me to give up, that the question that had inspired me was meaningless.

I learned that I was not the first person to be moved by this question, and not the first to resolve it. I learned that I would not be the last person to struggle with it.

Most importantly, I learned that there was very little that could be done to change the minds of the billions of Christians, Muslims, Jews and others who think and feel differently about our shared spiritual destiny. Most mono-theists, those who believe in some form of hell, they do not believe that God condemns people to hell because logic tells them so, they believe it because they want to believe it, because it makes them feel good.

I learned that logic, by itself, will not free them from those beliefs. 

My education was doing two things, it was arming me with more evidence, more arguments, more history. It was preparing me with expanded powers to synthesize and communicate those ideas. At the same time, it was informing me that no matter how great my dialectical powers might become, I would have little power to persuade the hearts and minds of the unwilling.

As for the willing, well, they were already with me, and that is preaching to the choir.

This is the nexus where my inspiration and my sense of futility meet, where my genius and my inner critic were hanging out inside my head. What happens in this encounter is very important, not just for me, but for everyone.

If you want to be true to the movement of the spirit within you, you may be called to stay with it for a very long time. You must listen to yourself, to the stirring in your heart, the choir that is singing there, like the bubbling of a fountain.

I have spoken of inspiration as a flash, a flare, a fire within, but it is more than that.

Inspiration is more than a vision that brings a small bit of joy, a quick illumination, or a fragment of understanding. If it were only that, then the vision would be a mirage, the illumination would burn as quickly as lime, and the understanding it imparted would be superficial.

Inspiration, when it is true, is a call to action. Sometimes what the inspired moment calls you to do, can be done quickly, and then it is over. Other inspired moments can call you to rearrange your entire life, while you engage with the inspiration throughout. The longer the commitment, the greater the temptation will be to yield to the inner critic and allow the inspired moment fade away under the force of futility.

You cannot escape the forces of futility. They work on the will and the imagination like entropy. Futility will assert itself and be an active part of working out your calling. And here is the thing, if you are dealing honestly with that force, if you grapple with it, you will find renewed inspiration in that struggle.

When I was working out my master’s thesis, and in the years since, I discovered that, none of my good ideas about universal salvation were new. I figured this out early in my research, many modern philosophers and theologians had written about the things that I was thinking about. I learned that every generation of Christians since the time of Christ had someone in the global community saying these exact same things.

The discovery I was making, each new voice I found was met by me with a kind of joy. It was a comfort to read their thoughts, to understand my own thoughts as an echo of theirs moving forward in time. We were sisters and brothers in the struggle to share the most poignant ppiece of the gospel, to tell the really good news: believe not so that you may be saved, believe that you are saved already and rejoice.

Then slowly, inexorably the weariness would set in. The resignation that came from the understanding that all of these good people, all of us, we were all like exiles in Christianity, just a tiny minority within the bigger movement.

The temptation to yield to futility can lead you to a seed bed of new inspiration. This is kind of like a buddy movie, where the two characters do not really get along: your inner critic and your creative self, think of The Odd Couple, of Felix and Oscar, always on each other’s nerves, and yet they are the best of friends.

At first blush, futility and inspiration seem like they are diametrically opposed, one voice is calling you to action, the other is asking you to sit down. Each would like to eliminate the other, but they are both a part of what makes us human.

Futility, like drag, will slow us down, this is not always bad, it can give us the time and space to rethink our approach, to listen, and even give us insight into how to move ahead better. Just because our inner critic is a critic does not mean that she or he is wrong.

Remember the wisdom of Brenda Ueland, when she said:

The creative power is in all of you (us) if you just give it a little time, if you believe in it and watch it come quietly into you; if you do not keep it out by always hurrying and feeling guilty during those times when you should be lazy and happy. Or if you do not keep the creative power away by telling yourself the worst of lies—that you don’t have any.[11]

Inspiration, if it is true, and we are true to it, will continually assert itself in our imagination, it will demand its place, find its voice, sometimes startling, sometimes quietly. That voice is yours, and mine. It will lead us out of the swamp, transform it into a verdant wetland, doing so in the light of our best expression, coming as fulfillment, and the radiance of joy.


[1] The American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition, Inspiration, “1. Stimulation of the mind or the emotions to high level of feeling or activity. 5…Divine guidance or influence exerted directly on the soul of humankind.”

[2] Rollo May, The Courage to Create, p. 103 “Apollo spoke in the first person through Pythia…the god was said to enter her at the very moment of her seizure, or enthusiasm, as the root of that term en-theo (‘in-god’), literally suggests.” W. W. Norton Company, New York, 1975.

[3] Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write, A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit: pp. 149-150. “Blake of course thought the imagination and inspiration (which we all have, as I have said) came from God and through God’s messengers; psychologists tell us it is rooted in the unconscious. But one explanation is as good another. I prefer Blake’s better because it is much easier to understand and more plausible…and remember the word enthusiasm means divine inspiration.” BN publishing, 2008

[4] Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write, A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit: p. 47, BN publishing, 2008

[5] Doris Lessing, Acceptance Speech, Nobel Prize for Literature, 2007.

[6] Brenda Ueland, Tell Me More, Strength to Your Sword Arm, pp. 205-210, Holy Cow! Press, Duluth 1984.

[7] The American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition, Futile, “1. Having no useful result. 2. Trifling, and frivolous; idle.”

[8] The American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition, Muse, “1. Greek Mythology Any of the nine daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus, each of whom resided over a different art or science. 2. A guiding spirit.”

[9] Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write, A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit: p. 121, BN publishing, 2008

[10] Both the Greeks and the Romans (as well as other ancient civilizations) had a highly developed notion of the duality of human nature. They each believed that our physical selves were accompanied by a spiritual being, coexisting with us on another plane of reality. The Romans called this spiritual counterpart our genius, and the Greeks called it the daemon; from these we get our terms “genius” and “demon.” A preference for Roman culture gave their word a positive connotation, and a pejorative connotation to the Greek cognate. Classical culture not only saw this aspect of ourselves as the point of contact between us and the divine realms, but the Roman word for this also means “begetter.” It is more than the aspect of ourselves that communicates inspiration, it is fundamentally the aspect of ourselves that oversees the production or the carrying our of what we have been inspired to do.

Barry B. Powell, Classical Myth, p. 631, Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1995.  

[11] Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write, A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit: p. 46, BN publishing, 2008

A Homily – The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

First Reading – 1 Kings 19:9, 11-13 ©

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 84(85):9-14 ©

Second Reading – Romans 9:1-5 ©

Gospel Acclamation – Luke 19:38, 2:14

Alternative Acclamation – Psalm 129:5

The Gospel According to Matthew 14:22 – 33 ©

 

(NJB)

 

The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

 

 

Listen!

 

God, the creator of the universe: God is not a maker of kings. God is not a general leading armies. God does not desire sacrifices of flesh and blood.

 

God, the creator of the universe is a god of love and mercy, of justice and compassion, of humility.

 

Consider the words of the psalmist and know that all things belong to God:, all lands, all seas, all planets, all stars, all galaxies; everything and everyone that is in them.

 

God did not end the captivity of Jacob, the tribe of Jacob did.

 

This is not hubris. What is hubris is thinking that God loves a special people above all others, and that God would do for them things that God would not do for others, not the understanding that the Israelites escaped their bondage in Egypt under their own power.

 

Know this:

 

God was never angry or indignant with the people, it is not due to God’s anger that people suffer. God does not rescue us from our plight or from the miseries of the world; that is for us to do, we must rescue ourselves and deliver the other.

 

Be mindful!

 

There are no individuals, there are no families, no tribes, no clans, there are no nations of whom it may be said that God loves them more than any other people.

 

Do not chase after vanities, trust in the judgement of God, trust in God’s plan for creation, trust that God loves everyone and desires their salvation.

 

Have faith that God will accomplish what God wills.

 

Remember this, God is not king, or a lord.

 

The creator of the universe does not wear a crown.

 

We do not seek glory as we struggle on the way toward salvation.

 

As we follow the way of Jesus we seek out the lowest of the low, not the highest heaven, we seek to serve those in the deepest dark and return them to the light of love.

 

God, creator of the universe, God is patient, loving and kind. God is merciful and just, God is humble and desires that we emulate the divine in these ways

 

Learn from God; become like God, loving, merciful, patient, humble, just and a blessing to all.

 

Consider the Gospel reading for today:

 

Bear in mind that the events it describes never happened.

 

This myth is a metaphor.

 

It is intended to communicate the idea that Jesus is not merely the Son of God, but the king of the gods. In it Jesus is depicted as master of the storm and lord of the deep, like other God-Kings, in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean region.

 

The image of Jesus walking on water, abating the winds, mastering the weather, and calming the storm, is analogous to the triumph of Zeus over the sea monster Typhon, or Marduk over the forces of Chaos represented in the dragon Tiamat.

 

In the reading for today Jesus is depicted as triumphant over the same forces, walking over the water just as Zeus and Marduk stood over the bodies of their vanquished foes in victory.

The myth is also intended to convey that the early church, represented by Simon Peter, was not entirely comfortable with this narrative, though it set aside its fears and embraced it nonetheless. In this metaphor Peter is the Church (Peter is always the church in Matthew’s Gospel), and the Church has been shaken by the death of Jesus.

 

Jesus had disappeared, returning only as an apparition. Peter moves toward the ghostly figure seeking to embrace it, but he is terrified and begins to lose heart. Peter does not know if they can transform the life and death of his friend and teacher into the grandiose and spectacular narrative that the people who had followed Jesus, who were now following him and the disciples into the narrative that they are hungry for.

 

In the end Peter embraces the mythology, the church sets aside the historical Jesus and embraces it too, in so doing the chaos that was shaking their movement in the wake of the crucifixion settles down. The mythological narrative is advanced and Jesus rises from the dead, he is no longer an ordinary man, the rabbi from Galilee; he is the Son of God, he is Christ the King.

 

Peter understood that in this way the church would survive, the storms would abate, if he and the others could convince people to believe this above all other things.

 

 

First Reading – 1 Kings 19:9, 11-13 ©

 

The Lord was Not in the Wind, or the Earthquake, or the Fire

 

When Elijah reached Horeb, the mountain of God, he went into the cave and spent the night in it. Then he was told, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ Then the Lord himself went by. There came a mighty wind, so strong it tore the mountains and shattered the rocks before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake. But the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire. But the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there came the sound of a gentle breeze. And when Elijah heard this, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

 

 

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 84(85):9-14 ©

 

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

 

I will hear what the Lord God has to say,

a voice that speaks of peace.

His help is near for those who fear him

and his glory will dwell in our land.

 

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

 

Mercy and faithfulness have met;

justice and peace have embraced.

Faithfulness shall spring from the earth

and justice look down from heaven.

 

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

 

The Lord will make us prosper

and our earth shall yield its fruit.

Justice shall march before him

and peace shall follow his steps.

 

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

 

 

Second Reading – Romans 9:1-5 ©

 

I Would Willingly be Condemned if it Could Help My Brothers

 

What I want to say now is no pretence; I say it in union with Christ – it is the truth – my conscience in union with the Holy Spirit assures me of it too. What I want to say is this: my sorrow is so great, my mental anguish so endless, I would willingly be condemned and be cut off from Christ if it could help my brothers of Israel, my own flesh and blood. They were adopted as sons, they were given the glory and the covenants; the Law and the ritual were drawn up for them, and the promises were made to them. They are descended from the patriarchs and from their flesh and blood came Christ who is above all, God for ever blessed! Amen.

 

 

Gospel Acclamation – Luke 19:38, 2:14

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

 

Blessings on the King who comes, in the name of the Lord!

Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens!

 

Alleluia!

 

 

Alternative Acclamation – Psalm 129:5

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

 

My soul is waiting for the Lord, I count on his word.

 

Alleluia!

 

 

The Gospel According to Matthew 14:22 – 33 ©

 

Jesus Walks on the Water

 

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’ And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’

 

 

The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

A Homily – Easter Sunday (Year C)

2019.04.21 – (Easter Sunday) C

First Reading – Acts 10:34,37-43 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 117(118):1-2,16-17,22-23 ©
Second Reading – Colossians 3:1-4 ©
Alternative Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 ©
Gospel Acclamation – 1 Corinthians 5:7-8
The Gospel According to John 20:1-9 ©
Alternative Reading – Luke 24: 1-35

(NJB)
Listen, and keep this in the forefront of your mind: God does not intervene in creation, or the free choices of human beings.

God does not intervene in our lives, at any point in time and space.

God did not so much anoint Jesus, as did Jesus accept the mantle of sonship to God. Jesus accepted the full burden that this entailed, even to the extent that he went to his death, suffering on the cross.

Jesus was free to reject the ministry that had been laid before him, but he did not. He was faithful to the end. Setting an example for all of us, demonstrating through his life and death the true meaning of the way.

Few people will be called to serve in the capacity that Jesus served; to be tortured and executed for a cause that is right and good.

Few of us have the capacity to love justice so much that they could humbly endure what Jesus endured, and that is why we call him the Christ, anointed with his blood and tears.

If you call yourself a Christian follow Jesus.

Do good.

Love justice.

Be merciful; be a source of healing in the world.

This is the way of Christ

Do the best you can, not for the sake of your salvation, but for the good of your sisters and brothers, for all women and men, for the stranger among you; the migrant and the refugee, even for your enemy.

Follow Jesus.

Do good.

Love justice.

Be merciful; a source of healing in the world.

This is the way.

Do not forget it.

To the extent that the Apostle deviates from this message, he is wrong, he is perpetrating lies for the sake of politics and propaganda.

This is a tragic disservice to the memory of Jesus.

It was not to Jesus of Nazareth that the prophets gave witness; not to Jesus specifically, but to the spirit of God that dwelt within him, and in every other person who has taken to themselves the mission of divine suffering.

Jesus never encouraged us to believe in him so that we could be saved, but to believe that we are saved; by God, ipso facto, out of love, simply because we are.

Saint Paul never saw the resurrected Jesus, but he did see in himself something that was Christ like, and divine. He taught us to see the same thing in each other, the figure of the risen Christ.

He moved us toward grace.

Listen!

It is true that the God is kind, loving, and merciful.

It is true that God always comes to God’s children in the way of kindness, love and mercy, even when God is exercising judgment, and administering justice.

God has no enemies.

God does not dwell behind the walls of a city.

There are no gates barring access to God.

God is in all places, at all times and in the hearts of all people.

God does not favor one child above another.

God is a bringing of life, not death.

God loves peace, not war.

If you meet victory in battle or in any other conflict or contest, do not confuse this with God’s will.

Be mindful of this.

Let us not pretend that life is waiting for us on the other side of the veil.

True life is the life we live here on Earth. We are called on by our faith to live this life as if we believed that the promise of our salvation were true, and already accomplished.

Imagine the holy family of God, of God who created the universe and everything in it.

Imagine living with the holy family in that garden now, at peace, without want or enmity, imagine that place where we can see clearly that our relationships with each other are more important than gold, and silver, more important than anything.

That is the place of true life, and we are called to live that life openly.

We must make a change, go back to our beginnings, to the simplicity of a child’s heart and grow ourselves anew.

Consider the teaching of the Apostle.
For the Apostle; yeast is an agent of change. It transforms us as it does bread.

We are the bread.

The apostle wants to take us back to a place before we were corrupted by the yeast of worldly influence, by the corruption of sin.

In this metaphor, yeast is the power of sin.

The followers of Christ are asked to reject the yeast and return to a state of purity, returning us to the unleavened state, a place that is simple and good.

Adding yeast to the dough allows the bread to rise, it adds flavor and pleasure, but it also corrupts the loaf.

The Gospel reading for the day does not offer a great deal of theology to engage with. The narrative is brief. And relatively straight-forward.

It was dark on Sunday morning, when Mary Magdala came to the tomb. She had been at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified. It was she who anointed him for burial, and she was the first to receive the revelation that Jesus had risen.

It was dark when she arrived at the tomb, but not completely, in the dim light of morning she saw a hint of the truth that would unfold as the sun rose, and fit illed the day with light.

She saw the stone rolled away from the tomb, and found the tomb empty.

At first she assumed that someone had come and removed the body of Jesus; taken and hidden him somewhere.

She hurried to find the others, to tell them what she had found. When the other disciples arrived on the scene and explored the empty tomb for themselves, the understanding of what had transpired began to take hold.

They saw the empty tomb, the burial garments cast aside, and they understood that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

On that belief, and on the strength of their witness the Church was born, but the Church was not built on the foundation of Peter’s faith. It was built on the faith of women; the women who never abandoned Jesus, the women who did everything in their power to make smooth the path that was in front of him.

Throughout his ministry it was the women who surrounded him, the women who always knew, who always understood the power of his message. They were never confused about his mission. They always understood how it would end.

While his male disciples tripped over themselves, doubted him, doubted each other, vied for supremacy, betrayed him, denied him, sold him into captivity; while all of that was going on, the women were steadfast by his side. They anointed him, they witnessed his trial, they stood by him as he was crucified, they buried him, they waited by the tomb, and they were the first to see him risen.

God bless these women, and their faith, it was a comfort to Jesus in his final hours.

After all that they had witnessed those same foolish men put the women aside. Took over the narrative, and did their best to wash their names from the Gospel.

The story of the church became less and less about Easter morning, and more and more about the days and weeks that followed.

The Gospel writers became confused with questions about who Jesus was, about his rank among the prophets, about his historical connection to Moses, about the proof of his ministry that was given in the scriptures/

In their confusion they began to make up stories to validate their claims, and this was all unnecessary.

It was contrary to the Spirit of Truth they were ostensibly committed to serve.

They had learned a great deal from Jesus about the way, but not enough. They continued to fall back on their same mistakes, mistakes that were fueled by fear and ignorance, arrogance and pride.

Jesus did not perform miracles in order to prove to anyone that he was a child of God. He stressed the fact that we are all the children of God, even the leper and the thief, the unmarried woman and the outcast.

Jesus did not come to work magic, to provide signs and wonders, because that is not how God, the creator of the universe, works in the world.

The core truth in this Gospel passage is not the long story about encountering Jesus, listening to him expound the scriptures, offering proofs and arguments.

The signal truth is this, “they recognized him in the breaking of the bread.”

They had the opportunity to see Jesus in the man they encountered on the road, but they did not see him in this stranger.

They had the opportunity to see Jesus in the faith of the woman at the tomb, but they could not understand it, or accept it in the moment

Jesus was dead, and yet the way which he had personified remained in front of them, the way is the living witness of God’s intention for creation.

The disciples were finally able to see the way, when they broke bread with the stranger, they found it in the meal they shared and not the words and arguments that were spoken.

The way is community.

Jesus is found in the trust we give to others.

The way is sharing things in common.

Jesus is present in the hope we kindle in the stranger.

The way is love.

Love has no boundaries, not even death can stop it.
First Reading – Acts 10:34,37-43 ©

‘We Have Eaten and Drunk with Him After His Resurrection’

Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: ‘You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism. God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil. Now I, and those with me, can witness to everything he did throughout the countryside of Judaea and in Jerusalem itself: and also to the fact that they killed him by hanging him on a tree, yet three days afterwards God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen, not by the whole people but only by certain witnesses God had chosen beforehand. Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead – and he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead. It is to him that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.’
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 117(118):1-2,16-17,22-23 ©

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
for his love has no end.
Let the sons of Israel say:
‘His love has no end.’

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The Lord’s right hand has triumphed;
his right hand raised me up.
I shall not die, I shall live
and recount his deeds.

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes.

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Second Reading – Colossians 3:1-4 ©

Look for the Things that are in Heaven, where Christ Is

Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.
Alternative Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 ©

Get Rid of the Old Yeast and Make Yourselves Unleavened as You were Meant to Be

You must know how even a small amount of yeast is enough to leaven all the dough, so get rid of all the old yeast, and make yourselves into a completely new batch of bread, unleavened as you are meant to be. Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed; let us celebrate the feast, then, by getting rid of all the old yeast of evil and wickedness, having only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Gospel Acclamation – 1 Corinthians 5:7-8

Alleluia, alleluia!

Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed: let us celebrate the feast then, in the Lord.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to John 20:1-9 ©

He Must Rise from the Dead

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
Luke 24: 1-35

Why Look Among the Dead for Someone who is Alive?

On the first day of the week, at the first sign of dawn, they went to the tomb with the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, but on entering discovered that the body of the Lord Jesus was not there. As they stood there not knowing what to think, two men in brilliant clothes suddenly appeared at their side. Terrified, the women lowered their eyes. But the two men said to them, ‘Why look among the dead for someone who is alive? He is not here; he has risen. Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee: that the Son of Man had to be handed over into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and rise again on the third day?’ And they remembered his words.

When the women returned from the tomb they told all this to the Eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. The other women with them also told the apostles, but this story of theirs seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe them.

Peter, however, went running to the tomb. He bent down and saw the binding cloths but nothing else; he then went back home, amazed at what had happened.
They Recognised Him at the Breaking of Bread

Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.

Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’

Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.
Easter Sunday – Easter (Year C)

A Homily – The Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year C)

First Reading – Joshua 5:9-12 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 33(34):2-7 ©
Second Reading – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Luke 15:18
The Gospel According to Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 ©
(NJB)
Consider the reading for today

Let us set aside for a moment the notion that the events reported in the book of Joshua refer to actual historical realities.

They do not.

These writings are fragments of oral history woven together with allegories, using metaphors to transform the narratives into myths that could inspire a struggling people.

These stories began to be collected and written down in the 10th and 11th centuries BCE. They reflect the point of view of the Davidic Monarchy, and that of David’s heirs. They do not reflect that actual history of the people of Israel or Judea.

Know this:

God did not deliver the people from Egypt, they saved themselves. They had nothing to be ashamed of for having dwelt among the Egyptians for so long. The children of Israel entered into the service of the Egyptians during a time of famine and as a means of self-preservation. They remained in service for several hundred years and while there, they grew into a strong people.

This is the story that the tradition has preserved.

There was conflict when they left Egypt, but when they left they did so under their own power.

They became nomads again, returning to their roots, wandering around the Levant until they settled in the land of Cannan, where again there was conflict.

What is hidden in the reading is this:

The People must rely on themselves for what they do in this world. The people must produce their own food, protect themselves and grow their own tribes. They are responsible for this and cannot wait upon God to provide them, if they do they will starve.

God will handle the rest.

The tasks that belong to God will be done by God, the work and the work of God is not of this world.

We are called to have faith in this, and to trust in what we hope for.

Be mindful of what the psalmist says.

If you intend to seek God, look only in your heart. You will find God in loving, and in loving you will be blessed.

Praise God through works of love.

Look for no other glory than service.

God is great because God compassionate.

God has no name, you cannot lift-up God’s name in praise, therefore exalt God’s loving work in creation.

Listen to your neighbors, rescue them from fear. Reassure them with you faith, God’s light will shine on you, in hope and through love.

Be mindful of this, God is merciful, with God there is no need for shame.

God is no respecter of station, class or wealth. God loves everyone the same.

Do not look for God to save you from your troubles, we are each of us another Job, each in our unique way.

Our tribulations are not tests, but we persevere through faith. Trust God and you will understand how transient they are.

Do not look to God to rescue you from anything, look to your neighbor instead. Be that person for your neighbor, for the stranger, rescue them if you can.

All pain is temporary, but love lasts forever.

Do not fear.

Speak the truth.

Avoid evil.

Do good.

God see all, hears all, knows all, even your innermost thoughts, your secrets and desires, your hidden motivations.

Keep your mind in the present and do not focus on the good things that may or may not come as a result of the work you do.

Love, and do good, without the thought of reward for yourself. Love as God does, we experience it in the here and now.

Only hearken to those who teach hope…ignore the fear-mongers. The way is not found in fear.

Listen to the peace of the Apostle.

Our salvation is the God’s work, not ours.

God has done the work already. It began as Saint John said, in the first moment of creation.

The fall, such as it was, happened subsequent to and in the context of God’s saving work.

The work of salvation begins in eternity, the product of sin is a function of time and space.

Listen to the Apostle!

God has done the work already, we are saved. Jesus revealed the truth of it and has entrusted all futures followers of the way with the task of sharing that God news with the world. This is the mission of the Church.

You are reconciled to God. There is no debt to pay. Allow the burden of sin, allow the fear of it to fall away from you.

Be glad.

It was always God’s plan that we fall and rise together. We fall and rise as one, as the Apostle teaches. We fall and rise as one, because we were created as one in the goodness of God.

Consider the Gospel for today.

People change.

Appearances are not everything.

There is good in everyone, and in everyone there is cause to be disappointed.

The degree of judgement levelled by the Pharisees in this narrative; that is not something we should aspire to emulate, neither is the jealousy expressed in this parable by the loyal son.

Beneath any veneer of piety there is often a degree of bitterness and resentment; making the pretense of piety a mere façade.

The parable is about justice.

Jesus presents a story from his vantage, he teaches from the perspective of divine justice.

Few of us are able to do this.

The more common discussion of justice is the superimposition of human values, contemporary social mores over what we think or fear God would desire.

It is a rare matter to be able to set aside the prejudices of the day and be able to express divine justice, but this is the role of the prophet; to express justice characterized by love and mercy, by compassion and forgiveness, and to demand that we reform our human traditions in light of those.

This parable is often analyzed as a narrative on the power of repentance; repentance, which is the turning around of the sinner toward God. It is told as a story of conversion and the power of transformation that ensues, and that is fine because those motifs are clearly present.

The characters in the parable are the father and his children.

Read; God and humanity.

Humanity is presented in two different lights; the self-indulgent, and the disciplined.

The self-indulgent child is like most of us, greedy and heedless of the future. The journey he makes, takes him for from his father, far from God.

It is a long journey, it takes years to complete and it leaves him destitute.

The disciplined child represents a much smaller number of us (though most people fall somewhere in between). He stays home, remains obedient and asks for nothing from his father, expecting to get it all.

He is pious and resolute, but in his heart he is resentful and bitter. Because he asks for nothing for himself, he receives nothing for himself, and in his heart he is covetous.

Between the sin of self-indulgence and the sin of covetousness; which is greater?

I think it is impossible to say; sin is sin..

There is perhaps a broader degree of danger in self-indulgence, but there is deep spiritual danger in the covetous heart.

This is a story of repentance. The younger son repents and returns home. The long journey away from home, is a short journey back, and what the narrative reveals is that while he was away from home, the eyes of his loving father; the eyes of God, were always on him.

I believe this is the point of the narrative.

The purpose of this narrative is not to remind us that repentance is possible, or that God rejoices in the repentant. The point is to say that God is with us, always with us.

We are never out of God sight, and we are never far from God’s love. The parable is about God, God’s mercy, God’s Love, God’s compassion, God’s forgiving heart. It is about what God and Jesus, ask each of us to emulate everyday insofar as we have chosen to be followers of the way.
First Reading – Joshua 5:9-12 ©

The Israelites Celebrate Their First Passover in the Promised Land

The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have taken the shame of Egypt away from you.’

The Israelites pitched their camp at Gilgal and kept the Passover there on the fourteenth day of the month, at evening in the plain of Jericho. On the morrow of the Passover they tasted the produce of that country, unleavened bread and roasted ears of corn, that same day. From that time, from their first eating of the produce of that country, the manna stopped falling. And having manna no longer, the Israelites fed from that year onwards on what the land of Canaan yielded.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 33(34):2-7 ©

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

I will bless the Lord at all times,
his praise always on my lips;
in the Lord my soul shall make its boast.
The humble shall hear and be glad.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Glorify the Lord with me.
Together let us praise his name.
I sought the Lord and he answered me;
from all my terrors he set me free.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Look towards him and be radiant;
let your faces not be abashed.
This poor man called, the Lord heard him
and rescued him from all his distress.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Second Reading – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ©

God Reconciled Himself to us Through Christ

For anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here. It is all God’s work. It was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation. In other words, God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, not holding men’s faults against them, and he has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled. So we are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God.
Gospel Acclamation – Luke 15:18

Praise and honour to you, Lord Jesus!

I will leave this place and go to my father and say:
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.’

Praise and honour to you, Lord Jesus!
The Gospel According to Luke 15:1-3,11-32 ©

The Prodigal Son

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.

‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.

‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”

‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”’
4th Sunday of Lent (Year C)

A Homily – The Fourth Sunday of Advent

First Reading – Micah 5:1-4 ©
Responsorial Psalm – 79(80):2-3,15-16,18-19 ©
Second Reading – Hebrews 10:5-10 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Lk1:38
The Gospel of the Day – Luke 1:39-44 ©
(NJB)
The prophet Micah foresaw the coming of the Prince of Peace, of Jesus of Nazareth, who was Joshua bin Joseph, the child of Mary, who Saint Paul called the Christ.

Note well; Micah’s prophecy was not a reading of the future. We know this because the future is not predetermined. God, the creator of the universe, God made us and it free.

Micah’s prophecy is an expression of hope, of trust in the way of love, which he believed all people are called to.

As all prophets must do, Micah called our attention to the troubling times we are facing. There is sorrow and there is pain and there is a deep sense of alienation felt among the people, of isolation from each other and of separation from God.

This is the human condition

As a good prophet does, Micha pointed toward our future, to the hope that the Christ will come, the archetype of peace to which all human should aspire, a peace that all leaders should seek to serve.

It is easy to read things the wrong way, consider the words of the psalmist for today

The psalmist misunderstands the natural unfolding of historical events for the will of God. God does not intervene in the affairs of human beings, God is not the author of our history past, or our future histories; we are.

God is the shepherd of all people, not of Israel only, and not of the Church founded in Christ’s name.

God does not reside on a throne and God is not the general of armies. Armies and kingdoms are human institutions and when we imagine God in the role of emperor or king, price or warrior we do a disservice to God, who created the universe, and everything in it. God who loves all of God’s children with the same equal share of the divine, the infinite and eternal love.

God will not rescue anyone from human the human dilemma, not in this life, whether it is long or short, easy or hard, there is no deliverance from it, save by our own action, and but for the love of our family and friends, or the stranger if we are so fortunate.

Remember this:

God’s face shines on everyone, look for it in the face of your neighbor, in the face of your enemy, in the faces of those who persecute you. God is as much present in them as God is present in you, and where God is present God is present fully.

God did not rescue the Israelites from Egypt. They rescued themselves, and they committed horrible atrocities and considerable crimes along the way. I am not talking about the promises they broke to God, God knew that they would. They murdered and plundered, killed and robbed, put dozens of tribes to the sword along the way.

God forgave them, and loved them anyway.

God did not send the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Ptolemy’s, or the Romans, to punish them.

God did not destroy the temples.

Each of those conquering Empire’s did what they did for their reasons in their own time, just as the armies of Joshua son of Nun did in his.

The only lesson we are to draw from it is this, God will not protect you, or show you favor in this world. We are all subject to the vicissitudes of change and the random nature of change.

It is up to us, God’s children, to love, show mercy, mete justice, and care for those downtrodden. We are called it.

Service is the seal of our baptism, we are called to it. It was the call to service that Jesus heard when he accepted his death on the cross, his life was sealed there too.

Note well:

Saint Paul the Apostle made a tragic error in his early formulation of the purpose of Jesus’ ministry and the reason for his death.

When Jesus said, “God wanted no sacrifice, takes no pleasure in holocausts, or sacrifices for sin, he meant it.

Jesus did not mean to suggest that his own death was the sacrifice God wanted, the purpose of Jesus’ ministry was not that his death become an oblation to God or a holocaust rising to the heavens.

He was murdered plain and simple, it was a political assassination.

Know this:

Jesus stood in the tradition of the prophets against the cult of animal sacrifice, because he knew that the cult of sacrifice was a corrupt practice, one that burdened the poor, bankrupting them to fatten the wealthy.

That is why he turned the tables of the money changers over in his tirade at the temple.

That is why the priests plotted his murder and conspired with the Romans to achieve it.

God, the creator of the universe, God takes no pleasure in blood sacrifices and burnt offerings. They are a contrivance, witchcraft, ineffectual and meaningless.

The only sacrifice God desires, is the sacrifice of service, offered in love, engendering hope.

Your loving service to your neighbor, is the offering God wants from you, service which furthers the ends of peace, fosters trust, seeks justice, and teaches a love for the law of God that was written in your heart.

Pay attention:

The writers of Mark’s gospel begin their narrative when Jesus was a man, an adult at the beginning of his public ministry.

The early Christians wanted more, and so the authors of Luke went back in time and narrated a fable about his conception and birth. In this fable, or myth (whatever you think it should be called) they attempted to tie up various loose ends in the stories that were being told about Jesus.
They wanted to unite different factions of the Christian movement in that was already falling apart just a half-century after his death. This particular narrative from today’s reading, was meant to appeal to the followers of John the Baptist.

It brought forth the notion that Jesus and John were actually cousins, and that even though John was older, he was a follower of Jesus from the time he was in the womb.

Just as John’s mother was subordinate to Mary.

It is a story, a fable, a myth; the whole thing is a fiction.

It is an unfortunate fiction, because a great deal of theology and doctrine has been hung from these exercises in make-believe, and such fictions were in themselves naked political calculations meant to manipulate the burgeoning movement.

The succeeding Gospels each in their turn reached back further in time. The writers of Matthew inserted a confusing genealogy; tracing Jesus’ heritage back to Adam, through David on his father’s side, and yet, at the same time, the Church insists that we believe Joseph was not his biological father.

The writers of John begin their narrative with the beginning of time itself, and the creation of the universe.

It is sad to note, that over the centuries, what people believed about these fables, ended up being the cause of extreme, bitter and deadly partisan conflict among Christians, setting aside the actual teaching of Jesus; to love your enemies, and pray to for those who persecute you.

Remember this when you pray; remember the errors of the church, the fictions of Luke, the mistakes of Paul, the carelessness of the psalmist, and remember the hope of Micah, that the proper expectation of the faithful is for the reign of peace.

First Reading – Micah 5:1-4 ©

He Will Stand and Feed His Flock with the Power of the Lord

The Lord says this:

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, the least of the clans of Judah, out of you will be born for me the one who is to rule over Israel; his origin goes back to the distant past, to the days of old.

The Lord is therefore going to abandon them till the time when she who is to give birth gives birth.

Then the remnant of his brothers will come back to the sons of Israel.

He will stand and feed his flock with the power of the Lord, with the majesty of the name of his God.

They will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power to the ends of the land.

He himself will be peace.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 79(80):2-3,15-16,18-19 ©

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

O shepherd of Israel, hear us,
shine forth from your cherubim throne.
O Lord, rouse up your might,
O Lord, come to our help.

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

God of hosts, turn again, we implore,
look down from heaven and see.
Visit this vine and protect it,
the vine your right hand has planted.

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

May your hand be on the man you have chosen,
the man you have given your strength.
And we shall never forsake you again;
give us life that we may call upon your name.

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.
Second Reading – Hebrews 10:5-10 ©

God, Here I Am! I Am Coming to Obey Your Will

This is what Christ said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation, prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin; then I said, just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book, ‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.
Gospel Acclamation – Lk1:38

Alleluia, alleluia!

I am the handmaid of the Lord:
let what you have said be done to me.

Alleluia!
Gospel – Luke 1:39-45 ©

Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
The Fourth Sunday of Advent

A Homily – Luke 1:57-66, 88 ©

The Gospel According to Luke – 2018.06.24

 

Narrative and Myth

The Gospel for today is quaint.

It demonstrates that the leaders of the early church, writing about a hundred years or so after the death of Jesus, and thirty years or so after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, that they felt a pressing need to enrich the story of their origins.

They invented myths, drafting a narrative that wove the disparate strands of their tradition in to a unity. They wanted to co-opt the strength of John’s community, to pull as many people as they could from John’s tradition, into their own, and to strip those who would not join them of any authority.

The story itself, is a pure fabrication. It can only be understood in terms of the metaphor it presents.

John and Jesus are presented as cousins, and the story depicts their entire family as beloved by God, protected by the hand of God, who works miracles in their lives.

There is variation in the metaphor depending on who is writing and when, but the basic disjunction shows John as prophet, and Jesus as High Priest, and King.

John is the goat and Jesus is the lamb.

John preaches in the wilderness, he is a man of the wild, like Ishmael, and Essau, and Jesus is presented as Abraham, or Moses; father, Lawgiver, or like David, the King.

The lesson from the gospel reading for today it that all narrative is fluid, and stories can be rewritten, all of our stories are, because we never tell them exactly as they happened.

Take nothing at face value, and question everything.

 

‘His Name is John’

The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.

Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.

Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel.

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Progress, Time and Place

Memory, what is it?

We have located the physical structure of memories in the proteins that form the engrams, that make-up the spindle fibers in the brain.

The tiniest sequences of amino acids form the web of neurons that house our consciousness.

But what is memory?

Are our memories only of the past, or are they also of the future…becoming now?

All that we are, everything we will ever be, all of it is right-before us, just beyond the reach of our finger tips, our potential-becoming-actual and concretizing in the past, like the rolling crest of a wave, churning in continuous motion.

Can you see it?

When the end that you have seen, the future you have anticipated, is realized in the present, what has occurred?

What has transpired when that moment slips into the past?

We are, each of us, fragments of a greater whole; we are splinters, specks of dust, we are the tiniest of seeds.

We are the infinite in germ, containing the whole in the part, like the DNA locked in our cells, the whole of who we are tangled in its double helix, awaiting the divine spark for it to unfold.

We are emotional beings, our memories of our experiences include the reality of how we felt, both in the moment of their instantiation, and later in the moments that we reflect on them.

There is the empirical reality of what is, or was, and there is the empirical reality of how we experienced it, felt it, internalized it, a process is always ongoing.

The past gets rewritten through the stories we tell, narration filters and therefore altars reality, not by changing he past, but by changing how the past is carried forward in the present and thereby projected into the future, conditioning us toward the end that we are seeking, the final cause that is the cause of all causes.

We are intellectual beings, thinking and perceiving, our memories of our experiences include the reality of how we narrate them, both in the moment of their instantiation, and later, in how we reflect on them.

The things we say about the events we participate in matter, both what we say aloud, and what we say to ourselves through the silent voice inside our head.

What we think and feel matters, our thoughts and feelings are real events, each and every one them. They happen, not in a private world unique to our individual experience, the occur in our experience, an experiential reality we share with the rest of creation, whether we chose to reveal those private moments or not.

Each in their own way has the potential to open our memories to us, our understanding of who we are, of what is, or bar us from the same.

The way is not a straight path, it is a winding road that navigates between the two, between the emotion and the intellect, pulling them together to form our understanding of the now, of what was, of who we are, and what will be.

The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to experience, a wise man said.

We must pass over the threshold of our own experience, move through the transom clear headed and ready to record what we encounter, both within and without, making ourselves into a the blank slate, our spirit into the tabula rasa, a perfect mirror capturing the light of our experience.

The journey we take through our memories, those trips are not a reliving of the past, they are creative moments in the here and now, co-creative events taking place in the present, while re-creating the past.

To speculate about the future is like chasing after ghosts, such visions are as elusive as the memories we have about events that have already transpired.

What is real is what is happening now, but do not fool yourself, because it is almost certain that you do not know exactly what is taking place around you.

Every moment we experience is directed by two things; a set of historical antecedents that push events forward, and a set of motivations concerning the future, which direct them toward a desired end.

Every event we experience has a multiplicity of such things; antecedents and motivations, that are too many to count, encompass, or comprehend.

We never really know anything.

Our potentials are always changing, both our powers and our liabilities shift at any given moment.

Rise with your potential, float on the tide, welcome the weather that follows.

We labor in the now, and every moment is a new referent guiding us toward our dreams.

Nothing is static.

Everything is mutable, in flux, even the past. Such is the nature of time, and our memory of it.

This makes us co-creators in the universe, partners with the divine in the eternal moment.

We are, each of us, the center of the universe, the fulcrum of all progress, in our time and place, on the razor’s edge, spinning with the world, turning on the lathe of heaven.

Perception

Perspective is everything, it is all we have as we make our way through the world. The way we see things, our point view, this is absolutely determinative of how we will decide things when we have choices to make.

 

There is a profound need for humility at the juncture where our individual perspective encounters the world, because the world is one thing and our perception of it is another. This is true of everyone with whom we share the world, true of every person who has ever lived on it, and true of all who will come after us.

 

The relativity inherent in our perception of who and what we are, of what is happening all around us, and of who is sharing the same space as us, this is a fundamental condition of human existence.

 

Not only do the sensory tools we possess, that we use to engage the world with, differ in each of us; for instance, we do not all see the same shade of blue, or hear the same note in the chords of a tune.

 

We are different from one another.

 

Our differences do not end with the subtle variations in the limitations of our bodies, of our sensory organs. Those difference are augmented; enhanced or mitigated by our cultural heritage, by the languages we speak, through the metaphors we live by, they are alternately exacerbated or diminished.

 

Every living being shares the same world.

 

The world we observe, that we live in, the universe itself is one thing.

 

We share the same reality. We merely see and hear it, smell and taste it, feel and think about it differently.

 

We are awash in illusions.

 

Understanding this is where we must begin, if we desire to be free.

 

 

~ Life belongs to those that see beyond illusion.

A Vedic Saying

 

The keys is discernment, and humility, to hold a perspective as adjustable as the focusing lens of a microscope, allowing us to see beyond pretense and shape.

 

The shape of a thing is not the thing itself, it is only an aspect of its appearance

 

The appearance of a thing is not the thing itself, it is merely an observation, arrived at according to the specific limitations of the observer, in relation to environmental conditions and exigencies of time and space.

 

Shape and appearance are illusions, emerging in collusion with our senses.

 

The shape and appearance of a thing or being, alone they do not tell us what it is, they only suggest to us what it might be.

 

What we see on the surface of a thing does not confer its history.

 

We must always be wary of intellectual laxity, we must ask questions, and be comfortable with uncertainty, especially in regards to those matters for which our feelings run high.

 

The human eye only functions in a narrow spectrum of light, broaden the spectrum and everything changes.

 

Light and narrative function the same way.

 

Listen to a person tell their story, everything changes with the broadening of context.

 

Every person carries within them a history that is not apparent to the naked eye. Even though they bear scars, and other markers of their story, they are but tokens, suggestions of the traumas and the joys we have endured.

 

Our scars, the lines in our faces and hands, they only tell the observer that we have a story to tell, they do not reveal the story itself

 

Pay attention.

 

It is common for us human beings to only be interested in their own narrow view of the world, making the assumption by default, that other people perceive the world the same way as we do.

This is comfortable and convenient.

 

Rather than empathize with another, our tendency is to circumscribe them, to subordinate their individual point of view, their uniqueness to our own.

 

The truth is here.

 

There is a web that stretches across all time and space, it is the tapestry of existence, every actual referent is woven into it, all that is, ever was, and ever will be.

 

We are enmeshed in it.

 

Between any one point on the cosmic skein, and every other, there is a relationship. Whether we are conscious of it or not, the relationship exists.

 

It is real and has an influence on us.

 

Every person is a society of interests, a nexus of both the known and unknown, our own interests and those of others, some pushing from our past, some leading from the future.

These interests coalesce in us, and that is the concrescence of being.

 

Past and future are simultaneously generated in the present, in the choices we make, in the world as we perceive it, a perception that may or not be aligned with reality

 

Whether true, of false, our perceptions are real thing in themselves.

 

Every moment recreates the entire universe.

 

Every one of us is an agent of change, with the whole of reality pouring through us, like water through a sieve.

On Writing – Collected Parts

On Writing

 

“A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them. That is, he does not draw on a reservoir, he engages in an activity.”

 

– William Stafford

 

Part I.

 

I was twelve years old, and I was sitting in the sunroom in the apartment that my family rented, at 3305 Harriet Avenue, in South Minneapolis.

 

The sun room was in the front of the house, just off the living room, on the other side of a set of French glass doors, and adjacent to a three-season porch.

 

I was sitting in the sunroom, on a wooden chair, a library chair with my hands at a typewriter that I had set up on a folding table, a T.V.  stand, that had once belonged to my grandmother Audry, my mother’s mother.

 

There were other people home. The oldest of my three older sisters, Ann was visiting. She was in the room with me, and she was talking to me about what I was doing. I was beginning to write a book, the first of many books that I began to write but never finished.

 

It was the Spring of 1981, I was finishing the sixth grade at Lyndale elementary. I was an avid reader. I was beginning work on my own novel, something in the tradition of The Lord of the Rings, or The Chronicles of Narnia, both of which I had read multiple time already.

 

I was typing.

 

For the next fifteen years my writing drifted back and forth from typewriter, to notepad to keyboard to note pad.

 

I do most of writing at the key board now.

 

When I write with pens or pencils, or a stylus of any kind, I use a backward grip, like a lefty.

 

It is possible that I was left handed once, because there are other things that I do with that part of my brain; shoot pool, throw darts etc…I might have been one of those lefty kids that was forcibly corrected to the mainstream.

 

With a note pad at my desk, and a pen in my hand, the writing flows vertically, as if I am pushing the words out, and away from me.

 

I get some pleasure from writing by hand.

 

As I have said, I mostly write at the keyboard.

 

The percussive feeling of typing, of striking the keys, of pushing the buttons is more comforting than pleasing.

 

It is comforting and familiar to brush my finger tips across the board, to press the desired character, to see it in the corner of my eye, appear on the screen.

 

On those rare moments that I am writing with pen and paper, sitting at a café, composing my thoughts and musings, that pleasurable sense is akin to nostalgia, a reminiscence that flows over me when I draw out the letters, to illustrate the words, to form sentences in a large flowing script.

 

It is like the airing out of a dusty room. The cobwebs in my mind are gathered and removed with the point of the instrument.

 

I write on a computer.

 

I keep my files in the cloud.

 

I have a lap-top, but I use a full size keyboard and mouse.

 

On a shelf by the side of desk are three containers full of pencils and pens, and a notepad on my desk just sitting there like a security blanket.

 

I have push pins at hand, Scotch tape, 3 x 5 cards, yellow post it notes, paper clips, and other clips, tacks, staples, a stapler and other scraps of paper.

 

I have all the tools I need for note taking or composition.

 

I have visual aids to remind me of what processes I will employ, what structures I want to adhere to. They are taped at eye level right in front of my face, and on either side of my monitor.

 

This place I have constructed for my imagination has changed much since I was a child, and was first learning to read and write, first learning the nature and use of symbols for the mind.

 

Part II

 

I remember the summer of 1974.

 

I was five years old and I was about to start kindergarten.

 

I knew that alphabet song, of course. I liked to sing it backwards.

 

A few weeks before school started I was very concerned that I did not know how to write my name, and I wanted to learn it, to practice it.

 

I have three older sisters. The oldest of them, Ann, she helped me. My other two sisters; Darcy, and Raney told me that I did not need to learn to write my name before school started; that is what they would teach me in school, they said.

 

I remember sitting down with Ann on the dining room floor, with a blue crayon in my hand, and a piece of lined paper. I practiced and practiced.

 

I wanted Ann to stay there with me and watch me do it, but after she saw me write my name onto the paper three or four times, she saw that I had it down. I knew the letters of my name, she felt that her job was done.

 

Without an audience, I grew bored as well. It was anti-climactic.

 

I am not sure exactly how I knew how to spell.

 

We had a puzzle set with wooden cut outs of the alphabet, I remember placing the cut out pieces into the tray where they belonged, each piece fit into its own spot, the alphabet (all uppercase) and the number line too.

 

We had alphabet blocks. Each block, a cube with a scored surface on its top and bottom; making it easy to stack them. There was an uppercase and lowercase image of every letter, and a couple of pictures of things whose names started with those letters.

 

A was for alligator, B for bumble bee.

 

Playing with those puzzles and blocks, touching them day after day, that must have been how I learned to put in order the letters for my name.

 

I was not a particularly accomplished hand-writer. I resisted learning cursive in elementary school. Those lessons began in the third grade.

 

I “printed” most of the homework and classwork that I turned in.

 

I sped through my cursive lessons as quickly as possible, knowing that when I was done I could move on to reading.

 

Reading was the most joyful part of my day.

 

Today my handwriting looks like a mixture of printing and cursive, with printing being the dominant form.

 

I could never write a whole paragraph in cursive form, though it is possible that I would write a long piece with only printed characters.

 

The norm for me is for some letters to loop together, and other letters will stand alone…rather than calling it printing or cursive, you might call it prinsive or cursing… I am not sure.

 

My handwriting has and always has been legible.

 

I received passing marks on it when I was in school, but never any stars.

 

 

Part III

 

We had books at home.

 

I loved to read: Mother Goose, the Anderson Brothers and the Brothers Grim fairy tales, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Reader’s Digest Versions of Greek and Roman myths, Time Life collections of modern classics; Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson and others.

 

I was neither encouraged nor discouraged from reading those books, I read them of my own volition.

 

I began playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was seven years old. I was entering the 2nd Grade.

 

The game was brand new to the world, all of the rules were written in a couple of thin pamphlets, and in the back pages of a magazine.

 

I played with my older brother and his friends.

 

I read the rule books that came along with it. They were mostly charts, with statistics and tables detailing the odds and likelihoods, chances of success, and the consequences of failure.

 

In the 2nd grade the librarian at Kenwood Elementary would not let me check out books that were above my grade level, which at that time were all picture books.

 

We had a very nice copy of The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, which I began reading in the third grade.

 

It was hardcover, and dark green, with fine milled pages, and glossy illustrations, and it sat on a shelf in a case for its protection.

 

It took me a long time to finish it, and when I did, started over, and began to read the Lord of the Rings, and other modern fantasies as well; the Chronicles of Narnia et al…

 

I read and re-read the books that enjoyed. I read them over and over. I read them in a round, like I was singing Row Row Row Your Boat.

 

My mom was critical of the fact that I was not reading more broadly, she thought I was stuck on Tolkien and Lewis, or stuck in a science fiction/fantasy genre, she pushed me to read other things

 

She only knew about the things she saw me reading, She did not know the other things grabbed my attention, and I did not always tell her.

 

The librarian at the Walker Library gave me a lot of attention.

 

She talked to me and listened to me tell her about what I was reading and she helped me branch out into unedited/unabridged version of Greek and Roman myths, and especially King Arthur. My relationship with her began in the summer after the 4th grade, when I would stop at the library after the Wednesday afternoon monster matinees at the Uptown Theatre near my house.

 

The guys who ran the comic shop on 32nd and Hennepin encouraged me to read, not only comics (which I read in abundance), but other authors as well; like George Orwell, Dostoyevsky, the books they were reading in college.

 

The comic shop was called Comic City then, it is called the college of comic book knowledge now.

 

I hung out there several days a week usually stopping on my way to and from the library.

 

I had a big brother from the Big Brothers Corporation of America, his name was John.

 

He bought me books, and he tried to get me to branch out fantasy, into science fiction, to read authors like Isaac Asimov, and Ray Bradbury.

 

He gave me a copy of Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave, part one of her Merlin Trilogy, which I read in the summer after the fifth grade.

 

Reading that book, exposed to me for the first time, a well formed idea of ancient Celtic culture, to the Druids, and to the Roman mystery cult of Mithraism.

 

This proved to be crucial for my developing interest in religion.

 

He also encouraged me to read magazines like: Discover, Scientific America, and Omni all of which he subscribed to and he would give me his old copies.

 

My friend Cecil gave me his copy of the bible, the margins were full of his notes. He gave this to me when I was in the sixth grade. It was the first bible that I ever read from cover to cover (complete with his notes).

 

My teachers at Lyndale Elementary encouraged me to read, and beginning in about the sixth grade they encouraged me to write.

 

Starting in the 5th grade they would release me from the classroom during the daily reading time, and let to go to the library where I pursued my own program.

 

My teacher, Ms. Wangerin heavily encouraged, she devised reading lists for me.

 

I read everything put in front of me, and I wrote book reports for her.

 

This same year I memorized a poem, and then recited it in front of my class.

 

I was moving at a very rapid pace beginning to read two or three books at a time, always reading or re-reading something by Tolkien or C. S. Lewis, always reading something new.

 

In the 6th grade I began to read Tolkien’s more complicated books, his Silmarillion and his Unfinished Tales.

 

In the 7th grade I was branching out into reference books relating to Middle Earth, and then I read a biography of Tolkien.

 

When I started reading Tolkien’s autobiography I began to get a picture of what a writer’s life was about.

 

I wanted to emulate him.

 

His life story inspired me.

 

I wanted to read more about all of the authors that I liked, and to learn about how they constructed the worlds they described, and the epics they heralded.

 

My mom bought me a book of poetry when I was in the 8th grade, I no longer have that book, but the poets name was Kavanaugh.

 

I began writing poetry that same year, and the following year my sister’s bought me a collection of The Best Loved Poems of the American People, that book is on my shelf still.

 

Part IV

 

I was fairly competent at spelling, but not perfect.

 

I never entered a competition to test myself against others.

 

I cannot recall ever being assigned a writing exercise as punishment.

 

In elementary school I was always willing to stay behind and wash the chalk board.

 

I enjoyed games like hangman, I always enjoyed using the word “zephyr” on a new group of kids, a word which I had learned from Dungeons & Dragons.

 

I stopped paying attention in class when it came time to learn how to diagram sentences.

 

I do not remember doing anything of the sort in elementary or middle school, but it was a part of the 9th grade curriculum, and I was content to never turn in any of that homework, and fail those lessons alltogether.

 

My grammar is fine, though on occasion I write a long sentence, and I might quibble with an editor over the placement of a comma; I occasionally misuse the semicolon.

 

I remember once in the 4th grade getting stuck, experiencing a mental block on how to spell the word “use.” I spelled it, “youse” and the teacher called me to her desk about that.

 

I was embarrassed.

 

I knew that I was spelling the word wrong even as I was printing it, but for some reason I could not think my way around it.

 

As an undergraduate I often chaffed when a teacher in a philosophy class or a theology class would take points off a paper for grammar and spelling.

This did not have a huge impact on me but it did have some.

 

I was especially perturbed when they would do this in areas of grammar where the rules are “gray,” un-fixed, and where the writer has some choice.

 

I dropped out of high school when I was fifteen years old.

 

I did not take another writing class or English class, or a class of any kind  until I was nineteen.

 

I started back up at the Minneapolis Community College.

 

I was enrolled in a remedial writing course.

 

We were asked to write a couple of paragraphs every day. The first paragraphs that I turned in came back to me covered in red ink. All of the professor’s comments were related to punctuation.

 

I was embarrassed.

 

The teacher was very kind, and he explained in very simple terms how to use a comma, period, and a semicolon.

 

No one else has ever explained it so clearly.

 

Even I cannot recreate his simple mode of instruction, but following his guidance, every assignment I turned in thereafter was perfect.

 

  1. A period is used to end a complete clause
  2. A comma may be used in a place of a period at any time, because a comma can be used in two ways; either to join a complete clause to an incomplete clause, or to join two complete clauses.
  3. A semicolon can may be used to join a two complete clauses, in which the subjects or main ideas of each clause are closely related. It may also be used to break up parts of a list.

 

Part V

 

When I was in my early twenties I read my poetry at open mic readings around town.

 

I have been doing that again over the last year, now that I am in my late forties.

 

I read at a little café in town of Twenty-nine Palms, California; when I was in the Navy.

 

I won a third place prize for composition and recitation.

 

I still have the little framed plaque, and have listed that achievement on my curriculum vitae:

 

Third Place, Thornton Desert Poetry Reading and Composition 1993.

 

I earned an A in my English 110 class at The University of St. Thomas.

 

The class was taught by Leslie Miller, a poet.

 

The class had an emphasis on the analysis of poetry and plays. It was a lot of work, and I was very proud of that grade because many of the English majors I spoke to about it were surprised that I had earned an A from Leslie Miller.

 

I was encouraged, and so I enrolled in a poetry writing class with the same professor.

 

Later, I had to withdraw from that course, taking a W because, according to Dr. Miller, whatever I was writing in her class, I was not writing poetry.

 

It was frustrating to hear a professor tell me that what I was writing was not poetry.

 

I did not understand her.

 

I told her that there were many thoughts in my head; ideas, arguments, anecdotes that I felt were best expressed poetically, and I asked her if this did not count as poetry.

She said it did not, because I was not working within an established medium (I was not sure how she knew this), she had us read the essay by T. S. Elliot: On Tradition and Individual Talent, and that encapsulated her view of my work.

 

The following is a piece I presented, and was rejected by her in class.

 

A Temporary Intervention in the Demise of a Drunk

 

His hands flail

Slowly, uncoordinated

In jagged arcs

 

He begs for his Lysol

Thinks it ambrosia

With a carton of cream.

 

Desperate for death? I ask

He chortles,

don’t make me drink kerosene

 

Until that time I had been quite fond of writing out my random thoughts and feelings in verse, it had sustained me through my teen years and into young adulthood.

 

I thought of myself as a writer of poetry but not a poet. I knew that even when I was eighteen years old. My friend Josh asked me then whether I saw myself as a poet, or a philosopher. I did not hesitate to say that I was philosopher.

 

When I finally started college it was philosophy, and theology, and history that I studied.

 

In my first few years as an undergraduate I still wrote poetry on the side, but after that class with Leslie Miller I stopped writing verse altogether.

 

For the next fifteen years, hardly a single line escaped my pen.

 

Part VI

 

I began keeping a journal in 1987. I was eighteen years old.

 

That first journal was essentially a dream journal, though officially it was a journal detailing my experiments with Astral Projection.

 

My friend Jeff, who was living in Maine at the time, he and I were researching the Astral plane, and through the technique of projection, we were endeavoring to meet one another in that dimension.

 

We both practiced the same techniques and agreed on certain, specific, visual and spatial cues, and recorded our experiences.

 

Though I tried, we never synched up.

 

My efforts resulted in my having a series of extremely vivid and controlled dreams.

 

The journals I kept concerned those dreams.

 

I never read someone else’s diary or private writing.

 

Growing up, watching TV, I saw several shows that outlined the privacy rules for diaries. I can recall episodes of The Brady Bunch, and Little House on the Prairie, which suggested it was a violation to look into someone else’s private world.

 

I understood that words were powerful.

 

When I was a teenager, and a political activist I made speeches and rallied people for our causes.

 

I understood the power of persuasion. I understood how to make people feel included our how to isolate them with words, to use my words to build them, or cut them.

 

Words both have the power both to harm and to heal.

 

Words are tricky, they deceive, create illusions.

 

Words foster our dependencies, they are crutches.

 

Words are the foundation of identity.

 

“Words dissemble, words be quick, words resemble walking sticks. Watch them, they will grow, watch them waiver so. I’ll always be a word man, better than a bird man.” Jim Morrison Said.

 

He was a word man, a writer. As I intended to be.

 

 

Part VII

 

I have two Master’s Degrees; I completed the first in the study of Theology, with a concentration in Church History and Systematics, at Saint John’s University in Collegeville; The second in Liberal Studies, in Creative Writing Program at Hamline University in Saint Paul.

 

I am proud of the thesis’ I wrote for those degrees.

 

My work in theology was the fulfillment of an argument that I had been working on for many years.

 

When I was young, early in my teens I stumbled on this argument:

 

If God has the desire to save all people,

And if God has the power to save all people,

Then all people will be saved.

 

If A and B, then C

A and B, therefore C

 

The argument struck me as simple and beautiful, and in its simplicity it had great power.

 

I had tested its power in hundreds of conversations, and found it to be unassailable,

 

It was the 1980’s, and I was fifteen, hanging out on the street, encountering born-again Christians.

 

The first time I used this argument, my interlocutor became visibly confused, he could not respond to it, and he left in distress.

 

I experienced a sense of victory, and I was pleased.

It was not that I had won an argument with this one person, though I had.

 

I knew at that moment that I had won the argument against the most common understanding of Christianity, and its most harmful dogma.

 

I had won a historical argument.

 

I had won a cosmic argument.

 

I had used my faith that God, the creator of the universe, is a loving being, and destroyed the notion that God condemns anyone to hell.

 

That simple syllogism did the trick.

 

I was not satisfied to make this argument on street corners and in cafes. I pursued it into higher education.

 

I tackled various counterarguments in numerous papers as an undergraduate, while pursuing a double major in Philosophy and Theology at the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul.

 

I took that work with me to Collegeville, and reconstructed for my first Master’s thesis, and the argument in its simplest form remained unchanged, and continued to deliver me victories.

 

Between 2001 when I finished at Saint John’s, and 2009 when I started at Hamline, I worked intermittently, on a variety of writing projects.

 

I brought nothing to fruition.

 

I began work on a couple of novels, I eventually quit them.

 

They were in the science fiction genre, I worked on them for months before I set them aside.

 

At that time, I lacked the will to continue, I lacked clarity and purpose, and the daily discipline to sit down and write.

 

The greatest obstacle in my writing life is me, I lacked sustained commitment. I had a reticence to submit my work for publication.

Poor habits, substance abuse, smoking and drinking, they ate into my time and my creative energy,

 

I had a fear of being accepted, a fear of not being good enough, of not being recognized.

 

I kept writing anyway, and eventually enrolled myself in a program to help me take my writing to a new level.

 

I endeavored to earn another degree, this time not because I had an argument that I wanted to win, an argument that had been driving me.

 

This time I was in pursuit of writing for the sake of writing, because I felt as if  I had something to say, which we all do, a contribution to make.

 

Part VIII

 

It was 1974 and I was five years old.

 

I had walked the one and half blocks to my school, Calhoun Elementary, from the apartment where I lived with my family (my mother, my sisters Ann, Darcy and Raney, and my older Eric).

 

We lived at 1401 West 32nd Street, In Minneapolis (on the corner of 32nd and Girard).

 

There were many kids playing on the playground before the start of school.

 

At the North end of the playground between the school building and some storefronts that faced Lake Street, there was a small area that we called the “Tot Lot.”

 

On the Tot-Lot there were platforms raised off the ground, on the ends of telephone poles.

 

The whole Tot-Lot was made from wood, with long ramps leading up to the area where children would play, running around and climbing over them.

 

On one particular morning there were a couple of older boys playing at the Tot-Lot.

 

I was in kindergarten, but they knew my sisters, and I joined them for a little while before school started, and then I stayed with them after the bell rang.

 

We were all still in elementary school. I was just starting and they were ready to move on, but they were smoking.

 

The Tot-Lot was out of the view of the playground.

 

When the bell rang and the other kids went into the school building for the start of the day, the boys I was playing with told me to hang out a little while longer, they told me I did not need to go to class.

 

I stayed for a time. I do not remember how long.

 

When I finally decided I had to get to class I went inside.

 

My teacher, Mrs. Crandle, asked me why I was late.

 

I lied.

 

I told her that I had been at the dentist.

 

It was a private act of prevarication.

 

I was alone with it and my guilty feelings, though I expect that my teacher knew I was not telling the truth.

 

It was my first piece of fiction.

 

Part IX

 

Given my ambition, given my desire to be a writer and a thinker, and to be received by the world as such. Given these dreams, which I have had since before I was a teenager, the dumbest thing I ever did was to drop out of school.

 

I was a model student in grade school, but then after failing the seventh and ninth grades, I quit going to school altogether, just a few months before my sixteenth birthday.

 

I did not like high school.

 

I was busy being a punk rocker and a political activist. I was deeply anti-establishment.

 

I hung around with college kids and college age people. I felt that I was both smarter and more-well read than most of them, and so it was easy to see myself in their place.

 

My heroes from T.V. land were also anti-establishment types like; Captain James T. Kirk (Star Trek), who was always figuring out ways around the system, and breaking the rules; or Arthur Fonzarelli (Happy Days), who never graduated from high school, but who ended-up being a high school teacher; or Charles Engles (Little House on the Prairie) who never went past the sixth grade, but who could do just about anything, and was a leader in his community.

 

As funny as it may sound, those TV narratives actually influenced my decision to quit school.

 

Perhaps more significantly, I was bored.

 

I never doubted that I would go to college, and I turned out to be correct in that, but the road to higher education, and through it, was more challenging and circuitous than I imagined it would be.

 

I was shortsighted, uninformed, and full of hubris.

 

I had no idea about how the world really worked.

 

With the simplicity of a child, I merely believed that everything would be okay. I believed that I would achieve my ambitions, regardless of how I undermined the ground beneath my feet.

 

At that time in my life I also believed that I might discover the deepest secrets of the universe and find with me the power to be a Jedi Knight.

 

I was fifteen years old, and I still possessed the child’s mind; wonderful and imaginative, and prone to magical distortions.

 

What I came to discover was this…

 

My future success, the success of anyone, is not determined by individual talent, or intelligence, but by the relationships they develop with teachers and mentors.

By dropping out of high school I cut myself off from access to that support.

 

Learning to trust in the support of teachers and mentors becomes the ability to find and trust the support of agents, and editors and publishers. Access to one, becomes access to the other, over time.

 

Without that rust and support, I was on my own, and there is no doubt that it delayed me on the path toward my goals.

 

I did go to college. I was not wrong about that.

 

I went to graduate school, and then more graduate school, earning two Master’s degrees, which is good, but my childhood ambition was not just to go to college, but to go to a college like Oxford, or the University of Chicago.

 

I thought I would earn more than a couple of Master’s degrees, I wanted a couple of Doctorates. I wanted to teach in those places, and publish books from those places, which is still not out of the question, but looks increasingly unlikely.

 

The risks I took were great. The road I walked, was long and winding, more difficult than I imagined it would be, and not conducive to my goals.

 

The sojourn was not unlike a poem I wrote in that time:

 

Light

 

A ray of light

Narrowly escapes

A closing door

Enlightens an object

Casts a shadow

Creates a question

Mystery

 

The writer must have ambition, there must be an end, a goal, a future they are directed toward.

 

It does not matter if the ambition is ever realized, the end ever achieved, the goal ever arrived at. The future always remains the future, and the writer’s narrative must always be reaching for it.

 

After that, the writer must write.

 

I have multiple ambitions for my writing, my ambition are in the fields of: Philosophy and Theology, History and Social Commentary, Fiction and Poetry.

 

I have always intended to write in these fields, blending them together.

 

I have a treatise in the history and philosophy of religion that I hope to fully develop before I die; a Summa Soteriologica. It began as an argument I made against the preaching of born again Christians, on the street corners in my teens. I worked on it as an undergraduate at the University of Saint Thomas. It became my Master’s thesis at Saint John’s University, titled The Reasonableness and Authenticity of the Doctrine of Universal Salvation in the Christian Tradition (RHADUS). That version of it is for sale on Amazon Books, titled: Salvation, The Story of US (buy it for your kindle).

 

https://www.amazon.com/Salvation-Story-U-S-English-Edition-ebook/dp/B00K4BFGY0

 

The early versions of this work were written in a specifically Christian and Catholic context. The field of study is called sotieriology, which is the theology of salvation.

 

I have always intended, to develop this thesis into a treatment of the salvation motif in a total global and historical context, the Summa Soteriologica I mentioned earlier.

 

That is my ambition, it continues to drive me.

I have a science fiction piece in development. For the past four hundred and sixty three days I have been posting a segment of this work to Twitter https://twitter.com/JayBotten , and or two my writing page on FaceBook https://www.facebook.com/CollectedWriting/ , with a weekly synopsis of the work I have posted going to my WordPress page https://jaybotten.wordpress.com/ , and my page on Blogger http://www.jaybotten.com/ . This project is scheduled to continue for with daily postings for the remainder of this year, and every day for the 2018 as well.

 

My ambition drives me.

 

I wrote a collection of essays, essays in the lyric mode, for my Master’s theses at Hamline University.

 

The project has changed me as a writer.

 

City of Water, Essays and Reflections on Life and the City, was initially inspired by a piece of writing I did in 2009, when I first began my program at Hamline University.

 

I was in my first Semester, we were asked to write a poem based on a website and a piece of work by the poet George Lyon, titled: Where I am From.

 

I wrote a poem about Minneapolis, titled City of Water, and I was very happy with it. That poem was first I had written since I was an undergraduate at the University of St.

 

Over the next year I thought about the poem, City of Water, quite a bit. I shared it with friends. I received positive feedback. I knew that I wanted to write more on the subject of Minneapolis, about the lakes and streams that give it it’s character.

 

Then it sprang into my head, as an idea almost completely formed.

 

Like Athena springing from the head of Zeus.

 

I should write a series of poetry about Minneapolis, about growing up here, and about the waters I have lived by my whole life. I would write a series of four poems about each lake in the Chain of Lakes, and I would organize them like an impressionist painting series around the themes of; winter, spring, summer, and fall.

 

I had my vision, a crystallization of intention that would lead me.

 

That was the first iteration of my goal.

 

That idea of a collection titled City of Water, sat with me for another year or so until I took a course in poetry, titled; Landscape and Memory. During that semester I devoted as much of my class work as I could to writing on this subject, and during that semester, the scope of the project changed, The number of subjects changed. I moved beyond themes of water to include features of Minneapolis.

 

Then I took another class, titled; The Lyric Essay, and the scope of the project changed again. I now intended to introduce each set of four poems with an essay, an essay in which I would related more personal, familial, and historiographical context to the subjects than I could provide in a poem by itself, and that would also deepen the meaning of the poetry I wrote.

 

My goal became a broad collection, titled; City of Water, and Wild Places.

 

Working on this became a daily devotion.

 

I continued to add to the number of subjects and sections that I would include in the whole work.

 

I created a document that listed each section, each subject, and the parts of each subject I wanted to write.

 

This served as an outline, and I plugged into that document all of the writing that I had already done through my class work.

 

Working this way was groundbreaking. My eyes were opening to new possibilities. I was doing something new, but I was doing it within the scope of my known strengths.

 

I had outlined several new sections for the project. I knew then that I was onto to something very ambitious, almost certainly too large for a single book. Nevertheless, I wanted to approach the work as a whole.

 

I determined that each section would begin with a haiku, and that every essay would begin with an epigram, a fragment of writing from a local writer, artist or significant person, who either wrote something about the subject, or were themselves directly related to that subject.

 

Essays followed the epigrams, and the subject was completed by the series of poetry in the winter, spring, summer, fall impression.

 

 

While I was plotting out this grand scheme, and it was evolving. I was at the same time devoted to working on it every day.

 

I began by locking in the haiku.

 

I found the epigrams.

 

I collected research on my family and the city.

 

I wrote and revised.

 

I combed through all of the poetry, and other writing I had done throughout my life, anything pertaining to my subjects and integrated with the work I had already begun.

 

I took this body of material to the beginning of my Theses.

 

Together with my advisor we selected a small number of subjects to concentrate on; the working title for this became; City of Water, Essays and Reflections on Life in the City.

 

My vision for my worked was evolving. Guided by it I thought up and committed myself to a process in which the outcome was entirely uncertain. Nevertheless, I believed in it.

 

I believed that a coherent, unified collection would emerge from the writing that I had already done, and that I would give a full exposition of my subjects by revising them according to a set of themes.

 

I determined to apply a thematic structure to each piece in the collection. I organized was as follows: thesis, transformation, loss, the city, self, family, friends, lovers, the dead, outsiders, historical perspective, contemporary perspective, mythology, synthesis.

 

I took the writing that I had already done, and broke it up. I cut and pasted the material into these thematic sections. Not everything fit neatly, and at the end of this process each subject had many sections in which there was no writing in it at all.

 

I wrote to fill these blank fields. I viewed them as empty buckets, at least one paragraph per day until I filled them all.

 

When I was done, I had a cumbersome collection of disjointed parts.

 

I was still uncertain of the outcome, but I had faith that a mature piece of writing was emerge from the process I was employing.

 

All of those disconnected pieces needed to be harmonized.

 

I began another major revision, synchronizing a timeline for each piece, eliminating redundancies, “wordsmithing.”

 

I think of this process as filtering,

 

The filtering brought me to the end of my thesis, but not to the end of this project,

 

There are more essay to be completed, and the there is the poetry.

 

I have other filters I want to employ before the work is concluded.

 

My vision demands that I pursue them.

 

I intend to filter the narratives through James Fowlers “Seven Stages of Faith Development,” and through Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs,” before everything is said and done I will filter them through the Aristotelian catharsis of “deduction-crisis-resolution.”

 

There are no obstacles standing in the way of these ambitions.

 

There is only desire, determination, and discipline.

 

Developing the right relationships with peers and teachers, agents, editors and publishers, these are factors relating to the development of an audience, but they are not obstacles.

 

Opportunity and timing are factors relating to publication and distribution of my work, but they are not obstacles.

 

These factors are malleable, you may influence them, but nothing is given that is not worked for. Everything you want for your future must be seized, and to seize it, you must see it, have it in your field vision, run toward it and never stop.

 

Tell yourself this…

 

Write everyday.

 

Your goals will shift, keep them goals organized.

 

Read in public spaces.

 

Submit work for publication.

 

Listen to feedback.

 

Develop relationships.

 

Part XI

My day typically begins at about 2:30 in the morning.

I get out of bed, put on my glasses, turn on a lamp, make the bed. I walk through the house turning on lights in the areas where I will soon be doing work, the living room, the dining room, the bathroom, and the kitchen.

I start some coffee. I feed the cat.

I turn on the television, and I power up my computer.

I wash face.

I pour a cup of coffee.

I sit down at my desk. I read the news page, check the weather, look at my bank account, check my inbox.

I write in my journal.

I work on a research project. For this, I read a passage from Scripture, I write a paragraph or two of commentary.

I post to my FaceBook page https://www.facebook.com/CollectedWriting/ the daily segment for my 55 word a day science fiction novel: Emergence 2.0, I submit a copy of it to the 55 word “super short fiction” contest.

I work at editing future segments of Emergence 2.0, my editing is about a month ahead of the release. The full release runs for 365 days. Version 1.0 was released on Twitter,  https://twitter.com/JayBotten over the course of 2016, and simultaneously on FaceBook. Each segment was a perfect 140 character grammatically correct tweet.

I work on Emergence 3.0, to be released in 2018. I draft a full page of writing from each 55 word segment of version 2.0, and so the progression will be; from 140 characters, to 55 words, to one full page.

On Saturday every week, I issue a synopsis of the previous seven days of writing. I post those to my blogs at WordPress https://jaybotten.wordpress.com/ , and Blogger http://www.jaybotten.com/ ,

I work at editing and revising a piece of poetry for release to my Blogs on Tuesday.

I work at drafting an essay for release to my Blogs on Saturday.

I work at drafting a homily for the Gospel reading on Sunday.

When all of that work is done, I work at my long term writing project City of Water and Wild Places, my autobiographical collection of essays in lyric mode, and poetry that captures the story of my life, and my family and the history of Minneapolis.

I spend between 3 and six hours a day at those writing activities.

I have breakfast.

I exercise.

I go to work.

I typically do not read or write after work.

My daily routine is habitual. I rarely deviate from it.

Part XII

 

I won a third place prize for a poetry composition contest in 1993.

 

It was a local celebration of poetry at the public library in Twenty-nine Palms, CA.

 

The contest included both composition and reading.

 

I received a plaque, a pen, some stationary and five dollars.

 

I received public recognition for my effort and talent.

 

I was twenty-four years old and I had written these poems at some point in the previous year.

 

The title of the poems I were: Burned and Currents

 

I had read in public spaces before. I had received applause, and the accolades of my friends, of people who would be supportive of me no matter I wrote or did.

I had never won a contest or been applauded by a group of total strangers before.

 

It was heart-warming.

 

Seven years later, I successfully defended my Master’s thesis in a public setting.

 

There were about forty people in attendance and there were not quite enough chairs for everyone who came to the small classroom where the event had been scheduled to take place.

 

I was nervous when it began.

 

I opened with a prayer, one that I said everyday, because the prayer was so familiar to me

I did not think to write it down.

 

I called the audience to prayer, I issued the opening lines, and then I stumbled in my words, forgetting where the prayer was going.

 

My pause and hesitancy were perceptible by the audience.

 

A few seconds passed, and then a group of my students showed up, they were late, but seeing them filled me with confidence and gave me the opportunity to recover my bearing.

 

I was able to finish they prayer and continue.

 

The prayer I recited was this, a Prayer of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Patron Saint of Philosophy:

 

Grant O’ Merciful God

That We may Ardently Desire

Prudently Examine

Truthfully Acknowledge

And Perfectly Accomplish

What is Pleasing to You

For the Praise and Glory of Your Name

 

From there I proceeded to answer a battery of questions, first from my advisors and then from assembly.

 

When It was completed, I had satisfied the requirements for my Master’s Degree.

 

It was the culmination of several years of academic work.

 

There are some who do not see research and academic writing as creative endeavors, but they are wrong.

 

They both involve the public expression of creative impulses that originate in the privacy of the writer’s thoughts and feelings.

 

The forms of writing and expression may be different; poetry and academics, but neither of them originate in a vacuum, they emerge in dialog, from observation, after rumination, and a careful articulation of language. Both may include vetting, peer review, research, argument, both attempt to elucidate something, a reality just beyond our senses and common experience.

 

They are challenging.