Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Kofa Mt., Arizona

If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson,

Monday, April 15, 2013

One Art, by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident

the art of losing's not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Primer on Mormon Prayer, by Adam Miller

A religious life is a life of prayer. Don’t skimp on this or, no matter how white your sepulcher, your insides will always just be full of dry bones.

How to pray:

1. Pray for at least twenty minutes, at least once a day, preferably in the morning.

2. Sit with your back straight, your hands nested in your lap, and your head only slightly bowed.

3. Aim for a 10-to-1 ration of listening to yammering. Given twenty minutes, say what you have to say in the first two minutes, then shut up and listen.

4. The Spirit can speak in all kinds of ways, but take as your baseline the classic Mormon expectation that the Spirit will manifest in your bosom or gut. Physiologically, direct you attention to the area just behind and below your navel. Simply attend, without interruption, to whatever bodily sensations show up there. Direct your attention to that single spot in waiting and expectation. This is what it means to “watch in prayer.”

5. Whenever your attention wanders – which it will do regularly, consistently, and almost immediately – note without judgment whatever you were daydreaming about (“Thinking about lunch-plans.” Or, “Thinking about the inconsiderate thing my husband did.”) and then, without elaboration, bring your attention firmly back to your gut and continue listening for the Spirit. You’ll get better with practice. But, in the meanwhile, you’ll also get a master-class in the content and extent of your own fallen, distracted, and profoundly self-absorbed nature.

6. The most obvious manifestations of Spirit include the following feelings in your bosom. Watch, in particular, for these: (1) warmth, (2) the rise and fall of your diaphragm in connection with the breath of life, (3) a spreading stillness, (4) a recession of your need, like the tide going out, to compulsively impose your will on the course of the day and on the people you’ll meet, (5) a willingness to, in general, pay attention and serve, and (6) the distinct impression that you are, in fact, regardless of circumstance, alive.

7. Learn how to pay attention to the Spirit in this same way throughout the day, as often as your able, whatever you’re doing. This is called “praying always.” The extension of this attentive, prayerful listening into the business of your daily life is the sum and substance of “conversion.”

met t' know ya

Consider, for example, the Jewish aristocrat and historian Josephus… who was sent, in AD 66, as a young army commander, to sort out some rebel movements in Galilee. His task, as he describes it in his autobiography, was to persuade the hot-headed Galileans to stop their mad rush into revolt against Rome, and to trust him and the other Jerusalem aristocrats to work out a better modus vivendi. So, when he confronted the rebel leader, he says that he told him to give up his own agenda, and to trust him, Josephus, instead. And the words he uses are remarkably familiar to readers of the Gospels: he told the brigand leader to `repent and believe in me’…
N.T. Wright

Monday, April 1, 2013

hey, like, whatever

Life narratives provide a bridge between developing adolescent self and an adult political identity. Here, for example, is how Keith Richards describes a turning point in his life in his recent autobiography. Richards, the famously sensation-seeking and nonconforming guitarist of the Rolling Stones, was once a marginally well-behaved member of his school choir. The choir won competitions with other schools, so the choir master got Richards and his friends excused from many classes so that they could travel to ever larger choral events. But when the boys reached puberty and their voices changed, the choir master dumped them. They were then informed that they would have to repeat a full year in school to make up for their missed classes, and the choir master didn’t lift a finger to defend them.
It was a “kick in the guts,” Richards says. It transformed him in ways with obvious political ramifications:
The moment that happened, Spike, Terry and I, we became terrorists. I was so mad, I had a burning desire for revenge. I had reason then to bring down this country and everything it stood far. I spent the next three years trying to [mess] them up. If you want to breed a rebel, that’s the way to do it… It still hasn’t gone out, the fire. That’s when I started to look at the world in a different way, not their way anymore. That’s when I realized that there’s bigger bullies than just bullies. There’s them, the authorities. And a slow-burning fuse was lit.
Richards may have been predisposed by his personality to become a liberal, but his politics were not predestined. Had his teachers treated him differently–or had he simply interpreted events differently when creating early drafts of his narrative–he could have ended up in a more conventional job surrounded by conservative colleagues and sharing their moral matrix. But once Richards came to understand himself as a crusader against abusive authority, there was no way he was ever going to vote for the British Conservative Party. His own life narrative just fit too well with the stories that all parties on the left tell in one form or another.